The Body Wails, The Body Restores, March 17 & 18

This Women’s History Month, Painted Bride is pleased to present a series of events called The Body Wails, The Body Restores on March 17 and 18 at 8pm. Movement Artists/Choreographers Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround and Vershawn Sanders Ward | Red Clay Dance (Chicago) present a riveting series of performances weaving contemporary reflections on race, womanhood, trauma, history, and their various intersections. The renowned cultural historian, anti-race worker, and performer Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild presents an essential, insightful pre-show performance on race both evenings.



RACE IS THE PLACE IS THE SPACE by Dr. Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild
Dr. Brenda Dixon-Gottschild references the Aunt Jemima stereotype to set the stage and through performative, embodied lecture, travels into the present via her Afro-expressionistic interpretation of selected poems. This performance is free to the public both nights. 6pm.

NATIVE PORTALS: CONTINUUM OF ACTION (WITNESS) + RELEASE by Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround Continuum of Action (Witness) weaves together the events surrounding the Craddock Four, the Greensboro Massacre, the MOVE Organization and the forming of their subsequent Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and/or Forums. Release renews and combines portions of the evening-length works titled Native Portals: Lynching & Love as well as Native Portals: Release Mourning Clearing—responding to the aftermath of recent incidences of U.S. police brutality. It presents an artistic location where anger is welcome as a processing space that does not wash over the spiritual, physical, and emotional violence present in our country today. In these intertwined works, the body is centered as a place of witnessing and testifying.

#SAYHERNAME  by Vershawn Sanders Ward | Red Clay Dance
Ward’s astounding new solo work, #SAYHERNAME examines the criminalization of female black activists Angela Davis and Assata Shakur, drawing parallels to the present day arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland. The solo dancer finds herself in a confined space; both physically (inside a prison cell) and mentally, bound by her condition and perceived loss of POWER.



Activism in the Body Workshop & Roundtable Luncheon
March 16 | 11am | Pay what you can
Experience the work of Lela Aisha Jones and Vershawn Sanders Ward in an intimate, intricate, and inclusive format as they facilitate through movement and dialogue how they created and conceptualize their solo works presented in The Body Wails, The Body Restores.

Afro Contemporary & Diasporic Movement Practice Workshop
March 16 | 6pm | Pay what you can
DMP’s are contemporary movement practices grounded in dance cultures and traditions of African and Black peoples. This workshop will be an exciting journey into the creative potential of the spiritual, conceptual, and physical energies that exist in movement of African descendant and Black peoples. With Lela expect a movement-based experience that promotes exhilarating body discoveries with physical explosion and intricate narratives. With Vershawn expect an introduction into the movement esthetic of Afro-Contemporary dance. Afro-Contemporary is a dance style that fuses Africanist movement vocabulary, contemporary dance and Chicago house.

Film Screening: Lynching & Love (2012)
March 16 | 8pm | Pay what you can
Native Portals is a multiple episode movement performance series. This evening-length episode, Native Portals: Lynching & Love (2012), interprets first exposures to noose lynching as experienced by the artists in the work, offers embodied renditions of the contemporary experiences of U.S. blackness/womaness, and experimentally touches upon nation love when traumatic histories are unresolved. The film version was shot and edited by Tiona McClodden (Leeway Transformation Awardee, 2016 Pew Fellow) and was first premiered in 2015 as a part of Headlong Video Vault curated by Ellen Chenoweth.

Holistic African Dance Intensive
March 18 | 11am | $30
Using vinyasa yoga-inspired techniques, instructors will guide participants through a practice to stretch and condition the body, develop a strong core, and embody key elements that aid in approaching African dance technique. Participants may utilize this practice in their everyday life for conditioning the body overall as well as preparing for any African dance class. Instructors will also break down and intricately review a West African dance from Mali.

The Body Wails, The Body Restores comes to Painted Bride Art Center March 17 and 18 at 8pm. Tickets are on sale now—$20 Advance, $25 Day of. To purchase, log on to or call 215-925-9914.



Lela Aisha Jones is a native of Tallahassee, FL who resides in Philadelphia, PA. She is a movement performance artist that has come to understand dance as an “archival practice” and her body “as an artistic archive—a creative storage space for movement and culture derived from the individual and collective lived experiences of blackness.” Lela is the founder of FlyGround, her creative home, where she cultivates her artistry that intertwines personal history, diasporic movement, social commentary, and interdisciplinary methods. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Dance at Florida State University and is a current doctoral candidate at Texas Woman’s University. Lela is a 2013 Dance USA Philadelphia Rocky Awardee, a 2015 Leeway Foundation Transformation Awardee and a member of the inaugural 2015 Innovative Cultural Advocacy Fellows designed by leaders at the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in NYC. In 2016, she was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

FlyGround is the creative home for the artistic work of Lela Aisha Jones and is a multi-initiative platform that currently houses Dancing for Justice Philadelphia (DFJ Philly) and The Requisite Movers (TRM). FlyGround creates spaces for cultivating a society with more nurtured, insightful, and harmonized human beings that center the body as an intermediary space able to translate, process, and archive culture and lived experiences across generations with a contemporary pulse. We prioritize archiving diasporic narratives through movement performance that bring nuance and imaginative vibrancy to dialogues concerning lived experiences of blackness.

Vershawn Sanders Ward is a movement artivist, Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Red Clay Dance Company based in Chicago, IL. A native of Chicago, Sanders-Ward holds a MFA in Dance from New York University and the first recipient of a BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. Her work has been presented at festivals in New York, Chicago, Kalamazoo, The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard, Toronto, Toubab Dialaw, Senegal, and Kampala, Uganda. She is a 2013 3Arts awardee and recipient of a 2009 Choreography Award from Harlem Stage NYC for the creation of her solo work, “New World Afrikan,” which premiered at the Dance Transmissions Festival in Kampala, Uganda.

Vershawn has served as an adjunct faculty member and facilitated residencies both nationally and internationally, at City Colleges of Chicago, the Dance Center of Columbia College, The University of Chicago, AS220, Knox College, and the National Theatre in Kampala, Uganda. She has been commissioned to create new works in Fall 2016 for her alma mater, Columbia College Chicago, and Spring 2017 for the Knox College Dance Program. Current touring work includes a new solo, “#SAYHERNAME,” an examination of the criminalization of female black activists Angela Davis and Assata Shakur and the connection to the arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland and is in process with a new work for her company titled “Redlining.” In 2015, NewCity Magazine selected Ward as one of the “Fifty People Who Really Perform for Chicago.”

Committed to uplifting the work of emerging artists, she also curates La Femme: a bi-annual, four-day festival, presented in the month of March in celebration of Women’s History Month, that brings the work of black/African/African Diaspora female choreographers from around the country to Chicago stages. Ward also directs the company’s annual Dance4Peace|Community Hug Awards Concert, one of the few non-competitive youth dance festivals in the city that also honors one individual from the community that is committed to impacting the lives of youth in Chicago through the arts.

Red Clay Dance Company was founded in July 2008 and based in Chicago, Illinois, Red Clay Dance is a professional touring company that creates and performs a diverse repertoire of Afro-contemporary dance which fuses traditional West African movement with contemporary dance forms. The company is a trendsetter for uniting elite professional dance creation and performance with a social consciousness that spills from the stage to the community. Red Clay posses the unique ability to offer authentic engagement for dance through creating and performing work within marginalized communities. As a company, they embrace cross-cultural collaborations and have a clear vision to strengthen their local community through collaborative projects between African and Afro-Diaspora artists.

Since its inception, Red Clay Dance has created and produced original works that have appeared in arts festivals around the world such as RAD Fest (2012), Dance Chicago (2011,2013), Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival (2011,2013), Dance Transmissions Festival/Uganda (2010), A.W.A.R.D.S Show/Joyce Soho NYC (2009), The Yard/Martha’s Vineyard (2007), L’Ecole Des Sables/Senegal (2008). The company has also self-produced six evening length concerts, “Written on the Flesh” (2016), “#SAYHERNAME” (2015) “ri’flekSHens in 6′′ (2015), ” Transcending” (2013), “Celebrating Our Legacy” (2012) and “New Beginnings” (2011).