Urban Bush Women was founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, whose mission was to create a company that would inspire greater awareness through the expression of dance. Using stories of disenfranchised people from a woman’s perspective, UBW embodies the spirit of the African diaspora, taking on social issues to inspire understanding and change. With performances throughout the U.S. and the rest of the globe, UBW have also made an impact in festivals such as Jacob’s Pillow, Spoleto USA, National Black Arts Festival, and Dance Umbrella UK. They have won many awards from prestigious organizations as the National Endowment of the Arts and Capezio, and were selected to represent the U.S. in DanceMotion USA, a U.S. Department of State program born of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to showcase dance abroad.
A powerful and intelligent choreographer who has created work for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco and Dayton Contemporary Dance, among others, Jawole’s work is life affirming and universal. Her company of dancers takes the stage as the goddesses they are, imbuing every piece with their fierce attention to the stories they tell. UBW’s collaborations with musicians, directors, and writers further elucidates the traditions of the African American culture, such as the 2009 piece Naked City, which was inspired by author Toni Morrison’s novel Jazz. Older pieces stay eternally current with their universal themes of relationships, such as the camaraderie we see in Girlfriends, and the protest for freedom in Walking With Pearl… African Diaries.