Jawole Willa Jo Zollar is the artistic director and choreographer of Urban Bush Women, which she founded in 1984. Urban Bush Women, based in Brooklyn, NY, is an internationally recognized performance ensemble that creates and performs dance-theater works inspired by women’s experiences, African-American history, and the cultural influences of the African diaspora. Its education and community programs address social issues and difficult historical truths while seeking to build community and leadership through art. Zollar earned her bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and her master’s degree in dance from Florida State University, where she now holds the Nancy Smith Fichter tenured professorship in dance. She has created nearly 30 works for Urban Bush Women as well as dances for companies as diverse as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance and Philadanco. Urban Bush Women has performed extensively in New York City and has toured throughout the United States, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America.
The Joyce Award supported DANCECleveland commission of a new work by Zollar, in collaboration with acclaimed Senegalese choreographer Germaine Acogny and her company, Compagnie JANT-BI, to create a work that draws on West African movements, rhythms, and styles. The Joyce Award allowed DANCECleveland to provide a 10 day Creative Space Grant, middle and high school residencies and a full range of outreach programs, culminating in performances of the Urban Bush Women in Cleveland, Ohio.