About Urban Bush Women
Urban Bush Women burst onto the dance scene in 1984, with bold, innovative, demanding and exciting works that brought under-told stories to life through the art and vision of its award-winning founding artistic director and visioning partner, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. The company continues to weave contemporary dance, music, and text with the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of the African diaspora under the organizational artistic direction of Zollar and co-artistic directors of the UBW company, Chanon Judson and Mame Diarra "Samantha" Speis.
UBW performs regularly in New York City and tours nationally and internationally. 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; a Black Theater Alliance Award; and two Doris Duke Awards for New Work from the American Dance Festival. In recent years, Zollar has been awarded the 2014 Southern Methodist University Meadows Prize, the 2015 Dance Magazine Award and the 2016 Dance/USA Honors Award. In 2017, Zollar received a Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance. Speis is the recipient of the 2017 Bessie Award for Outstanding Performer with the ensemble skeleton architecture. Judson received the APAP Leadership Fellowship and the Director’s Lab Chicago Fellowship in 2018.
Off the concert stage, UBW has developed an extensive community engagement program called BOLD (Builders, Organizers, and Leaders through Dance). 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.
UBW launched the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative in January 2016. The CCI supports the development of women choreographers of color and other underheard voices.