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"Urban Bush Women only is because of people like Arthur L. Johnson. Thank you SphinxCon for honoring my work with an award in Mr. Johnson's name."
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
In 1984 Jawole founded Urban Bush Women 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 African American 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 for Performing Arts. Urban Bush Women 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. Later in 2011 Jawole choreographed visible with Nora Chipaumire, a piece that originally began as a two-year collaborative process and developed into a theatrical dance piece that explores migration. In 2012 Jawole was a featured artist in the film Restaging Shelter, produced and directed by Bruce Berryhill and Martha Curtis. Currently Jawole is collaborating with Liz Lerman to animate the crisis of poverty in America.
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.
Jawole was the 2013 Arthur L. Johnson Memorial award recipient. Her interview with Aaron Dworkin at the inaugural SphinxCon can be viewed in the SphinxCon Video Archives, Session 2.