Vershawn Sanders-Ward Founding Artistic Director and CEO of Red Clay Dance Company

By Taroue Brooks

Photos by Raymond Jerome

What inspires you to show up at work every day?

I honestly don’t view what I do as work, it is my purpose.  As the Founder of my organization I am blessed to live out my purpose through Red Clay Dance Company. I believe we are all searching for purpose in our life and I am grateful to have found mine.

Define why lifelong learning is important to you.

I realize as I mature in my career that the world is constantly changing and evolving. There are new technologies and processes being developed every moment to minimize wastefulness and maximize productivity. As an individual that is very aware of my evolution, I understand the need to continue to learn as vital to personal development and to reach your greatest self. I have also come to know that learning comes also in many forms and modes and one benefits most when open to all they ways available to learn and then apply learning.

Define your personal culture.

My personal culture is filled with and led by spirit. I believe in God and that belief shapes how I move through the world and what I value. Honesty, Integrity, Passion and Authenticity are all a part of my personal culture, sprinkled with love, wittiness, compassion and resilience.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

I don’t get to take a lot of vacations but my favorite to date was Paris. My parents made the sacrifice to send me in high school and it showed me that there was so much more to the world than just the US and that I could experience it all!

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

That we would all exemplify the true meaning of love towards everyone. That would lead to the ability to collectively fix so many of our other huge issues if we truly lead with love!

A Non profit leadership fund of the Harvard business school club of Chicago’s community impact committee presents the community impact scholars program (pilot)


Red Clay Dance Company lives to awaken “glocal” change through creating, performing and teaching dances of the African Diaspora–change that transforms cultural, and socio-economic inequities in our local and global community.


The company aspires to be a global model for synergy in dance creation, performance and education that elevates the stories of people of African Diaspora. We accomplish this through:
● Artistic collaboration through research, investigation and refinement
● Employing dance artivism as the vehicle to shift cultural and socio-economic imbalances.
● Nurturing artivists from novice to professional by providing an authentic pipeline.
● Building a global community through strategic partnerships.
● Inspiring audiences to strengthen community through artivism (art + activism).

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Vershawn Sanders-Ward
Photo Credit: Raymond Jerome Photography


A native of Chicago, Vershawn Sanders-Ward holds a MFA in Dance from New York University and is the first recipient of BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago (Gates Millennium Scholar.) She is the Founding Artistic Director and CEO of Red Clay Dance Company and is currently a candidate for Dunham Technique Certification. Sanders-Ward is a 2019 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Awardee, a 2019 Harvard Business School Club of Chicago Scholar, a 2017 Dance/USA Leadership Fellow, a 2013 3Arts awardee. In 2015 and 2018, NewCity Magazine selected Ward as one of the “Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago”. Her choreographic work has been presented in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard, and internationally in Toronto, Dakar and Kampala. Vershawn has served as an adjunct faculty member and received choreographic commissions from Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, Knox College, City Colleges of Chicago, AS220, and the National Theatre in Uganda. Vershawn serves on the Board of Directors for Enrich Chicago and was selected to attend the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit for Emerging Global Leaders. Sanders-Ward has had the pleasure of gracing the cover of DEMO, Columbia College Chicago’s Alumni Magazine!