In 2023, Southern DanceWorks (SDW) is celebrating sixty years of providing training, community engagement, school residencies, and performances for Birmingham and the entire state of Alabama. Founded by Laura Toffel Knox in 1963, the company was first known as the Birmingham Creative Dance Group (BCDC). It was the first school of its kind in Alabama to offer classes in creative/modern dance and to open its doors to both black and white members of the community. Mary Foshee served as Artistic Director from 1984 – 1994 during the transition of the company from BCDC to SDW. Holding an MFA from the University of Utah, Mary was a two time recipient of the Artists Fellowship Award/Dance from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, and worked tirelessly during her tenure to provide foundational dance education through the school, maintain the company, build audiences, and carry forward the torch for contemporary dance in Alabama. Teri Weksler, a Juilliard graduate and a founding member of the Mark Morris Dance Group, became Artistic Director in 1997 and served until her retirement in 2021. Her vision was to bring new audiences to modern dance, commission new work by guest choreographers, collaborate with a variety of community artists and organizations, and nurture young choreographers.
Germaul Barnes first connected with SDW in 2010 when Weksler commissioned a new work for the company. Since 2016, he has become more and more involved in Birmingham’s arts scene, first as guest artist at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and then as full-time instructor in 2019. For SDW, Barnes envisions building on the legacy of founder Laura Toffel Knox by combining his interests in anthropology, the culture of African Diaspora, Blackness, musicality, and social justice, community collaborations, and by nurturing young artists.