Introducing Our First Grand Marshal Of 2014, Jawole WIlla Jo Zollar Of Urban Bush Women!


photo by Crush Boone

Introducing our very first Grand Marshal for the 2014 Season, Founding Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women Dance Company: Jawole Willa Jo Zollar!

From Kansas City, Missouri, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar trained with Joseph Stevenson, a student of the legendary Katherine Dunham. After earning her B.A. in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, she received her M.F.A. in dance from Florida State University. In 1980 Jawole moved to New York City to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion.

Choreography/Company. In 1984 Jawole founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. In addition to thirty-four works for UBW, she has created works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University and others; and with collaborators including Compagnie Jant-Bi from Senegal and Nora Chipaumire. In 2006 Jawole received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for her work as choreographer/creator of Walking With Pearl…Southern Diaries. Featured in the PBS documentary, “Free to Dance,” which chronicles the African American influence on modern dance, Jawole was designated a Master of Choreography by the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in 2005. Her company has toured five continents and has performed at venues including Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and The Kennedy Center. UBW was selected as one of three U.S. dance companies to inaugurate a cultural diplomacy program for the U.S. Department of State in 2010. In 2011 Jawole choreographed visible with Chipaumire, a theatrical dance piece that explores immigration and migration. In 2012 Jawole was a featured artist in the film Restaging Shelter, produced and directed by Bruce Berryhill and Martha Curtis, and currently available to PBS stations. Jawole is collaborating with MacArthur Fellow Liz Lerman to animate wealth and poverty in America.

Current Work and Accomplishments. 
Jawole developed a unique approach to enable artists to strengthen effective involvement in cultural organizing and civic engagement, which evolved into UBW’s acclaimed Summer Leadership Institute. She serves as director of the Institute, founding artistic director of UBW and currently holds the position of the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University.
Recent Awards/Honors. A former board member of Dance/USA, Jawole received a 2008 United States Artists Wynn fellowship and a 2009 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial. Still dancing, she recently toured in a sold-out national tour presented by 651 ARTS as a leading influential dancer/choreographer on a program that included her early mentor Dianne McIntyre, her collaborator Germaine Acogny, Carmen de Lavallade and Bebe Miller. As an artist whose work is geared towards building equity and diversity in the arts Jawole was just awarded the 2013 Arthur L. Johnson Memorial award by Sphinx Music at their inaugural conference on diversity in the arts. Recently, Jawole was a recipient of the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.  Read more…


In her choreography, Zollar creates avant-garde dance-theater productions that speak from the black female perspective. Her pieces are collaborative performances between dancers, vocalists, artists, actors, composers and musicians, including vocalizations, a cappella singing, storytelling, and social commentary. Through these mediums, Zollar pushes towards social awareness and change. Zollar also explores African-American folk traditions and the reality of the black woman’s experience, tackling uncomfortable and controversial social topics such as abortion, racism, sexism, and homelessness, in a hard-edged and straightforward way. Many dance critics say that Zollar’s company makes a point to show the reality of African-American culture, revealing how black Americans express themselves when not in the presence of whites. Source : Wikipedia

More to come!