Macon native dances past adversity, puts miracles in motion

“If anybody knows, I know that life is a gift,” says Marquita Redd, CEO and founder of Redd Arts Company, Incorporated.

Redd, a Macon-Bibb County native, was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver disease, in 2002, and she was told that she would ultimately need a liver transplant to survive. This marked the beginning of many health struggles for her.

Over the years, as she attended college, she was in and out of the hospital, but determined not to let the disease beat her. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and African American Studies from Washington University in St. Louis in 2006.

Mel Redd photo
Photo courtesy Mel Redd.

“Even though it was sometimes a struggle, I still had dreams of performing, and I wanted to share my talent with the world,” explains Redd. And she certainly was able to do that.

Redd danced with many companies professionally, including Cecil Slaughter’s The Slaughter Project in St. Louis, Philadanco D/2 in Philadelphia, and Project Motion in Memphis. Working as the assistant to the Founder/Artistic Director of Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis, she choreographed the musical “Crowns” during her tenure there.

After dancing professionally for 5 years, Redd was ready for a change. “I enjoyed performing, but I wanted to deepen my artistry and knowledge of dance history, theory, and pedagogy. I also wanted to dig more deeply into the spiritual and cultural significance of the dance of the African diaspora,” she said. In 2011, she decided to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In cold Milwaukee, far from her warm Macon roots, Redd began to thrive. While completing her degree requirements, she lectured in dance history classes at UWM, taught dance classes to elementary school students in the Milwaukee Public School system, and danced with the Ko-Thi Dance Company and Wild Space Dance Company.

She choreographed and performed solo work at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Drucker Center in Chicago, and the Kenilworth Arts Studios in Milwaukee. “Milwaukee gave me a lot of opportunities, and it gave me a space to shine. I couldn’t wait to bring everything I was learning and doing back to my hometown. And also, I knew I didn’t want to get trapped in a snowstorm ever again!” said Redd.

After returning to Macon in 2014, Marquita got to work rebuilding her community ties and building a dance legacy in Middle Georgia, and she founded Redd Arts Company, Incorporated, the next year.

In February 2015 and February 2016, she performed in the Living History Tours offered at the Tubman Museum, which were theatrical presentations of important figures from African American history. Redd performed excerpts from the canonical work “Cry” by choreographer Alvin Ailey and one of her original compositions.

“My dance career in Macon started at the Ruth Hartley Moseley Center when I was 4, but I first learned African dance at the Tubman Museum. I was ecstatic to be able to come back to the place where I started, but now as a seasoned professional,” she says.

In 2016, she also performed as a guest at the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Dancing Stars of Central Georgia” competition and in Hayiya Dance Theatre’s “Stained Glass” production.

Redd also started to post her work online. In March 2016, she shared a video on Vimeo called “Macon: A Love Letter.” It featured a series of performances at historical Macon sites, such as the Bibb Theatre, old Tubman Museum, and Cherry Blossom Office. Her goal was to generate interest in downtown Macon as part of the city’s urban renewal efforts.

In September 2017, she released “Miracles in Motion” on YouTube. This video showed her dancing in front of a house on Pursley Street that was once the location of Miracles Fine Art Gallery, the first African American art gallery in the city of Macon, which was owned by her parents Vernon and Melgenia Redd.

“The tagline for my company Redd Arts is ‘Miracles in Motion,’” explains Redd. “I want to honor the artistic contributions that my parents have made to this city. I also want to tap into the spiritual power that traditional African cultures ascribed to dance, where certain movements could move energy and make magic happen. Finally, with all the obstacles I have had to overcome to get to a place of health, I myself am a Miracle in Motion!”

And she is a miracle indeed. In June 2016, she was placed on the list to receive a liver transplant. A few months later on the afternoon of November 30, 2016, she received the most important phone call of her life, where she was told to get to Emory Hospital immediately. After living with primary sclerosing cholangitis for over 14 years, on December 1, Redd received her transplant.

“I am grateful to say that I was given a second chance at life – a chance to make better decisions, accomplish my goals, and fulfill my purpose,” she exclaimed.

Not only is Redd appreciative of the second chance she was given, she now wants to help save lives. She feels that it is a joy to tell her story, she wants to make others aware of the need for organ and tissue donors, and she wants to share the healing power of dance with everyone.

With these goals in mind, she and Redd Arts Company, Incorporated, will present the Gift of Life Choreographers’ Showcase at the Douglass Theatre (355 MLK Blvd, Macon, GA) on January 20, 2018, at 7 pm. This evening of dance will feature a wide array of talent from the Middle GA area, including the Central High School dancers, Hayiya Dance Theatre, Kali Dance Studio for the Arts, Studio Powers, the Vibe Dance Center, Princess Holston, and Mary-Kate Hunnicutt. The performers will delight the audience as they incorporate their own ideas and movements in original imaginative dances. The showcase will also include Trysha Stephens as a special guest soloist.

Proceeds from this event will be donated to the Georgia Transplant Foundation. Their mission is to help meet the needs of organ transplant candidates, living donors, recipients, and their families by providing information and education regarding organ transplantation, granting financial assistance, and being an advocate for sustaining and enriching lives every day.

“Every day, I thank God, my donor’s family, my transplant doctors, and my loving family and friends for looking out for me and giving me the opportunity to create more miracles! I invite all of you to come and enjoy an evening of dancing and singing. It will be a night of hope and excitement. I want to share that with you,” she says.

More information about Marquita can be found at www.reddartscompany.com. You can email her at reddartscompany@gmail.com, call her at 478-747-2381, or write to her at P.O. Box 26057, Macon, GA 31221.

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