Sheri Sparkle Williams says she got very lucky 46 years ago.
She danced her way into Jeraldyne Blunden’s sight.
“I was lucky enough to stumble into her hands and she never led not one of us astray,” Williams said of the late founder of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. “She led by example. She was humble and graceful and warm. She knew her craft and she put us in the hands of those who could direct us in the right direction.”
A week ago, in what has been described as a historic moment, Williams took her last spins and leaps as part of DCDC, the dance company she helped put on the map.
Williams performed her final solo and ensemble performances as a member of the dance company formed in 1968 at the Victoria Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 8.
She said there is nothing like performing for a local audience.
“I have fans all over the world, but my home crowd, that’s my heart,” Williams said.
If not for a hip injury she’s been nursing for eight years, the artist praised for her kindness, artistry, athleticism and longevity says she wouldn’t be hanging up her dancing shoes.
“I love it and I love dancing where I am,” Williams said. “My work environment is amazing.”
Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders, DCDC’s CEO, said Williams is an important face of the dance company.
“She has not only been the sparkle behind the scene, but the sparkle on the stage as well,” Saunders said. “She provides a level of professionalism and expertise that is not matched in the dance world today.”
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Williams was saluted by fellow dancers who surrounded her, bowed on the ground and drummed their hands on the stage, said Dayton Daily News Ideas & Voices Editor Ron Rollins, who was in the audience for the performance of “In the Spirit of … Abundant Blessings.”
Williams said she never imaged she’d be with DCDC 46 seasons.
“Typically people might be in the field 10 years and that’s a good run,” she said. “I wanted six kids and the whole family thing, and it never came to be.”
Williams said she lost her parents, Johnnie and Margie Williams, and sisters Regina and Tara Williams, throughout the years, but has always had her love of dance and the company.
She took her first dance class at age 9.
Williams’ future role with DCDC has not been completely formulated, but she plans to remain connected with the company.
Aside from being a principal dancer, she has been the company’s fitness trainer.
She currently attends Sinclair Community College with the intent to transfer to University of Dayton to become a physical therapist.
Earlier this year, Williams, an original member of the New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet, was named one of the YWCA’s Women of Influence recipients and was awarded the Inspirational Artist Award by the International Association of Blacks in Dance.
Those honors are among many she has received in her career.
She has also received the JOSIE Award, Fisk University’s Excellence in Artistry Award, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District, New York Dance and Performance Award (the Bessie) and Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts in the category of Individual Artist, her biography on DCDC’s website says.
DCDC is known for its athleticism and Williams says that can be grueling on the body.
She urges younger dancers in company like DCDC to find their ways into the “hands of those who can guide them.”
“(They should) study and train hard and be mindful and take excellent care of their instrument, their bodies,” Williams said. “Beyond all the training, find the joy in it. Make sure you enjoy it because it is hard work.”