Darlene Winters, President and Artistic Director of Company d, is a lifetime student of dance. With a Masters Degree in Speech and Language Pathology, Darlene discovered a means of utilizing her clinical skills, dance and theatre methodology to facilitate communication with individuals with intellectual disabilities. Her work with Company d dancers focuses on developing their abilities as dance artists and facilitating language and literacy through the performing arts. By uniquely merging her profession with her passion for dance, Darlene’s creative spirit has found its place to nurture and grow which can be witnessed through her boundless and joyful enthusiasm for the dancers with each step, turn and leap!
At the onset of her professional career as a language therapist in the 70’s, Darlene was part of the original steering committee to initiate the inaugural VSA Workshop in Tennessee. VSA is an international organization founded more than 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all. Subsequently her training in dance and participation in VSA workshops was inspirational and the trajectory point for converging paths.
As her career progressed, Darlene began to integrate her background in communication, dance, and theatre by directing and choreographing stage productions for children, including those with special needs. Her work and community involvement has enabled her to work with several private schools, community programs and organizations such as the School of Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Memphis and Arts Memphis. Darlene also developed and implemented original summer camp programs like Express Yourself and Blabber Jabber which were designed to utilize literacy as a springboard for teaching the basic elements of dance, heightening the young child’s imagination, oral language skills, and building self-esteem through the arts.
During her time as a teaching artist through the Center for Arts Education with Arts Memphis, she conducted residencies for hundreds of children and teachers in the Memphis City Schools and Head Start programs. Her extraordinary teaching skills have been shared through in-services and conferences in the area of incorporating arts into the curriculum with hundreds of teachers and teaching artists.
Today Darlene continues her private practice in speech-language pathology as the Clinical Supervisor for master level students at the School of Communication Science and Disorders through the Language Learning Lab, a program initiated and developed in 2012 by Darlene for adults with Down syndrome. Additionally, to meet the needs of her dancers, Darlene continues to study dance by attending classes at Collage Dance Collective and Project Motion classes in Memphis, with Luigi and Francis J. Roach in New York and Giordano Jazz dance in Chicago.
Awards & Accolades
- University of Memphis, School of Communication Science and Disorders, 2014 Outstanding Alumni
- University of Memphis, College of Arts and Science 2011 Outstanding Alumni
- Jefferson Award 2011, Memphis representative to National Jefferson Awards in Washington D.C.
- Commercial Appeal, December 28, 2008: 12 who made a difference
- Hand on Memphis, Spirit of Giving Award May 2, 2008
- Partners in Progress Award, Down Syndrome Association of Memphis 2006