Over the 30 years of Urban Bush Women’s legacy, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar has created countless fantastic choreographies.
But at what point did audiences and critics start to truly believe that the performance company were onto something and doing something really special?
It seems that the turning point came about at the time of Shelter (1988), a work about homelessness and was said to be the company’s ‘most overtly political concert piece’ (George-Graves 2010, p. 121). Through this choreography, Zollar chose to address and be direct about the national issue, and thus her work was described to be about social justice and overcoming socio-political ills.
This led the company to execute outreach programs, where they brought their works to Black communities by visiting churches and schools.
‘We didn’t present ourselves as experts from New York, we wanted to learn and grow with the communities we were there to serve’ (Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, 2015)
So perhaps as well as appreciating their choreographies we should look at the amazing things they have done in order to encourage community engagement, and I think that is their greatest work of all!
Join us at the Black Women In Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers conference to network with Urban Bush Women themselves as well as other international industry professionals on May 10 2016 in Leicester!
GEORGE-GRAVES, N. (2010) Studies in Dance History : Urban Bush Women : Twenty Years of African American Dance Theater, Community Engagement, and Working It Out. Madison, University of Wisconsin Press.
ZOLLAR, J. W. J. (2015) In: URBAN BUSH WOMEN (2015) UBW 30th Anniversary. [Video] Available from: https://vimeo.com/149164982
Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann