Urban Bush Women

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Urban Bush Women (UBW) is a Brooklyn, New York-based non-profit dance company that was founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. The ensemble performs choreography by Zollar and other choreographers, often with a social justice focus. UBW performances weave together contemporary dance, music and text with the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of the African Diaspora, and with an emphasis on women's experiences. The company tours locally, nationally and internationally, where they perform for diverse audiences.

Mission statement[edit]

Founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Urban Bush Women seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance. We do this from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community in order to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond.[1]

Recent repertory[edit]

2016 -

  • SCAT!

2015 -

  • Walking With ‘Trane Side A & B

2014 -

  • Hep Hep Sweet Sweet
  • Walking With 'Trane, Chapter 2
  • dark swan
  • Chalabati

2010 -

  • Zollar: Uncensored
  • Body Talk

2009 -

  • Naked City


The company has been commissioned by presenters nationwide, and includes among its honors a New York Dance and Performance Award (“Bessie”); the Capezio Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance; and two 2004 Doris Duke Awards for New Work from the American Dance Festival. In March 2010, UBW toured South America as part of DanceMotion USA(sm), a cultural diplomacy initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.[2]

Off the concert stage, Urban Bush Women has developed an extensive community engagement program called BOLD (Builders, Organizers, & Leaders through Dance). UBW’s BOLD program has a network of over 29 facilitators that travel nationally and internationally to conduct workshops that bring the histories of local communities forward through performance. UBW’s largest community engagement project is its Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), established in 1997. This 10-day intensive training program serves as the foundation for all of the company’s community engagement activities. Ultimately the SLI program connects dance professionals and community-based artists/activists in a learning experience to leverage the arts as a vehicle for civic engagement.

As an extension of UBW’s mission and core values, UBW launched the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center January 2016. The center will support the development of women choreographers of color and other under-heard voices.

UBW continues to celebrate over 30 years of creating dancing, engaging communities and using dance to bring together audiences through innovative choreography, community engagement and artistic leadership development.


UBW has performed in New York City and throughout the United States, as well as Asia, Australia, Canada, Germany, South America, Europe and Senegal (in collaboration with Germaine Acogny and her all-male Compagnie JANT-BI).

Performances in the USA include Jacob's Pillow, Spoleto USA, National Black Arts Festival, Dance Umbrella UK and Lincoln Center. The Company has been commissioned by major presenters nationwide, and includes among its honors a 1992 New York Dance and Performance Award ("Bessie"); the 1994 Capezio Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance; and a 1998 Doris Duke Award for New Work from the American Dance Festival.

The company’s repertory consists of 33 works choreographed by Zollar including ambitious collaborations with jazz artist David Murray; poets Laurie Carlos and Carl Hancock Rux; directors Steve Kent and Elizabeth Herron; and the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique (supported by The Ford Foundation’s Africa Exchange Program).

One of UBW's missions is to build communities through the arts, thus they have developed a Summer Institute in Brooklyn NY which was founded in 1997. The program educates young dancers about political and cultural situations in their environment through the use of dance, music and poetry. The company has been presented extensively in New York City and has toured throughout the United States and to Asia, Australia, Europe and South America. Festival appearances include Jacob’s Pillow, Spoleto USA, National Black Arts Festival, Dance Umbrella UK and Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival.

UBW also uses art to create community. Long-term community engagement residencies culminating in public performances have been produced in New Orleans, Sarasota, Philadelphia, New Haven, Tallahassee, Riverside (California), and Flint (Michigan). Each summer UBW produces and hosts its Summer Leadership Institute, an intensive training program in dance and community engagement for artists with leadership potential interested in building community, addressing issues of social justice and developing a community focus in their art-making. In 2009 the Institute was relocated to New Orleans where UBW seeks to contribute to the city's re-building effort in partnership with local artists and activists including The People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond.


  1. ^ "Urban Bush Women website". Urban Bush Women. Retrieved Template:June 29, 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ http://dmusa.blogspot.com/2010/08/dance-motion-usa-2010-recap.html. Retrieved Template:June 29, 2016.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]