Photo by ShaLeigh Comerford
ShaLeigh Comerford is the owner of the Durham-based dance company, ShaLeigh Dance Works, which will soon hold its 3rd annual gala. Set for October 13th at 6pm at the Rickhouse, the theme of this year's fundraising gala is Secret Garden Rendezvous. Complete with wine tastings, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, local artists, a secret guest speaker, and even special performances by ShaLeigh Dance Works, the gala is sure to be an event to remember. Luckily, we were able to speak with ShaLeigh before things get too hectic and to ask her five key questions about the gala and her award-winning dance company.
Without giving anything away, what's something you can tell us about your guest speaker?
The "secret speaker" is prompting a lot of buzz. And, while we knew ShaLeigh couldn't give away the surprise, she did tell is that, "If I could describe our speaker in one word, it would be 'fearless.'"
A few other things she let us know were that the speaker is "contagiously inspiring, an innovator, and a pioneer in new inclusive movement methodologies." She also explained that the speaker recently served as a presenter at the Alexander Technique National Conference at Columbia University in New York City and said that "I have no doubt he will leave his mark on the world of dance and certainly will move everyone who hears him speak."
How will the gala benefit the company's mission?
Shaleigh also shared with us a little bit about the gala and how it serves the goals of her dance company.
She explained that, "Our company's mission is to create socially conscious dance-theatre, expand the reach of our healing movement language, and offer engagement programs with positive impact on the lives of others."
She went on to say that, "The gala sustains our efforts throughout the year and helps us to share a deeper look at how we are meeting our mission. We call the Gala Revolutionaries in the Dark to keep powerful art experiences at the center of a broader conversation about cultural values and the intellectual, aesthetic, and social purpose of making art. Our annual platform is also intended to celebrate other artists that are literally shining a light in dark places by challenging many of society’s deepest assumptions. This work calls us to action, and we want to continue to participate in these shared efforts for deep and lasting social change. We truly believe that we are in need of work that affirms and promotes a sense of community, empathy, and connection, work that restores us, reminds us that we’re human, and connects us to one another again. We believe that by investing in these efforts, we can discover new possibilities and can begin to engage in a different dialogue about what it means to be an artist, how valuable it is, how we are collectively affecting change, and how this contributes to our universal human experience. Our annual fundraising campaign gives us the opportunity to make a statement of advocacy for the arts that is deeply meaningful to why we create the work we do from our productions to our movement language and our engagement programs."
As so beautifully explained by ShaLeigh, it's obvious that the gala is important for the dance company and for its powerful goals.
What kinds of items can be expected as part of the silent auction?
One of the ways in which the gala will raise funds is through a fun silent auction, one that ShaLeigh promises will be full of many great items.
She explained that, "This year, our silent auction items are bundled into several thematic baskets of experiential delight."
One basket will include a night out on the town in Durham with local restaurant vouchers and a special VIP package to DPAC. Another is a health and wellness basket, complete with reiki, integrative health coaching, and a 6 month yoga membership at Global Breath.
Other items include art experiences with benefits at Nasher Museum and the North Carolina Museum of Art, as well as original art work.
These are just a few of the many items that will be available and ready for bidding!
What makes Rickhouse the perfect venue for the gala?
Next, we turned our attention to the venue where the gala will be held, a unique retired prizery.
ShaLeigh told us that, "The Rickhouse reflects the inclusive and innovative spirit of our fundraiser. It is the perfect venue for this special edition of the gala themed Secret Garden- defined as new beginnings and growing to be seen."
She describes the venue itself as "revolutionized into new beginnings with its chandeliers, antique casks, reclaimed wood, mortar, brick and metal."
ShaLeigh also called the space "unique," "versatile," and "perfect for a one-night transformation into an urban botanica." She also expressed her gratitude to Jessi Grass and the staff for "their incredible support and efforts on our behalf."
Based on ShaLeigh's description, the venue should be as exciting as the gala itself!
Out of the many productions and achievements throughout this exciting year, which one are you the most proud of/excited about and why?
Finally, we couldn't help but turn our attention to ShaLeigh's fabulous company and the many accolades it has earned throughout 2019.
While it must have been difficult to pick just one achievement, ShaLeigh said she was "most excited for the groundwork we have laid for our future. We have begun our paperwork to obtain our non-profit status, launched our first ShaGa Teacher Training Program augmenting our movement language ShaGa and training the next generation of teachers, and expanded our partnership with Reality Center to offer weekly movement classes to individuals with physical disabilities. Our new apprenticeship program is training the next generations of SDW dancers and our mentorship program is nurturing the artistic development of our company members. We have grown tremendously this past year, and I could not possibly be more excited for the future we are creating."
ShaLeigh's answers have dance lovers in the RDU area exited too. If past achievements are any indicator, the gala and all the future endeavors of ShaLeigh Dance Works should be nothing short of impressive. Interested individuals can learn more about the gala here or on the company's official site.
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