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Urban Bush Women

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Urban Bush Women performing Shelter - Photo by Ayano HisaAbout

Founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Urban Bush Women is a company devoted to using performance as a vehicle for social change. A native of Kansas City, Zollar has created more than 30 works for the New York-based company, combining elements of modern, postmodern, African, and Eastern movement traditions along with music and text. These works explore the history and culture of the African diaspora; take on real-world issues such as homelessness, domestic violence, and suicide; and use ritual and spirituality to enable healing and the transcendence of oppression. Unafraid of tackling difficult social issues and tapping into raw emotions, Urban Bush Women provokes its audiences to interrogate and celebrate the complexities of race, gender, class, sexuality, spirituality, social relations, politics, power, aesthetics, and community. In addition to touring throughout America and around the world, Urban Bush Women is devoted to catalyzing social change and activism through community engagement, particularly through its BOLD program (Builders, Organizers, & Leaders through Dance), which facilitates workshops and summer intensives that promote dialogue, inclusiveness, and embodied learning in the cause of social justice. Urban Bush Women's performances are marked by infectious energy, dynamism, and bold attitude, leaving audiences moved, exhilarated, and inspired to seek change in their own lives and communities.

Pictured above: Walking with 'Trane (2015) marked the 30th anniversary of Urban Bush Women with a return to the company’s jazz roots using music and partially improvised movement inspired by jazz great John Coltrane. (Photo by Julieta Cervantes, courtesy of Urban Bush Women)

Pictured left and right: Visionary choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar studied both theater and dance before founding Urban Bush Women, and was infuenced by the social justice movements of the 1960s. Throughout Zollar’s work, the image of the strong black woman who triumphs over hardships prevails. (Photo left by Hakim Mutllaq; photo right by Crush Boone, courtesy of Urban Bush Women)

Pictured right: Urban Bush Women performing Shelter, one of many pieces in the company’s repertory that address real-world issues like homelessness and domestic violence. (Photo by Ayano Hisa, courtesy of Urban Bush Women) 

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Photo by Jon Nalon





Pictured left: Urban Bush Women performing Scales of Memory, co-choreographed by Germaine Acogny. A collaboration with Senegal's all-male Compagnie Jant-Bi, the work explores heritage within the African diaspora. (Photo by by Jon Nalon, courtesy of Urban Bush Women)


Pictured below: Community engagement has been an integral part of UBW’s mission, with the most enduring project being the Summer Leadership Institute, seen here in images from 2015. In this 10-day intensive, company members work with local arts activists to build techniques for civic work, creating a global network of change-makers. (Photos by Nathea Lee, courtesy of Urban Bush Women)







In this video, prepared for Urban Bush Women's 30th anniversary, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar discusses the growth, evolution, and challenges of the company.