Center for the Arts Welcomes Urban Bush Women

Posted: December 21, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Urban Bush Women
Photo by Antoine Tempe

Founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Urban Bush Women is dedicated to the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. Mason’s Center for the Arts welcomes Urban Bush Women back to its stage in a repertory program featuring signature works on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 8 p.m.

The company weaves contemporary dance, music and text with the history, culture and spiritual traditions of African Americans and the African Diaspora, exploring the transformation of struggle and suffering into the bittersweet joy of survival.

Urban Bush Women has performed extensively in New York City and has toured throughout the United States and in Asia, Australia, Europe and South America. The company has been commissioned by presenters nationwide and includes among its honors a 1992 New York Dance and Performance Award (“BESSIE”); the 1994 Capezio Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance; and a 1998 Doris Duke Award for New Work from the American Dance Festival.

Urban Bush Women’s Community Engagement Projects consistently partner the ensemble with local presenters, area artists and community residents to bring the untold and under-told histories of their communities forward through performance art. It is this community-focused vision that drives the aesthetic of the company.

The company’s repertory with a social conscience includes “Walking with Pearl-The Southern Diaries,” inspired by African American dance pioneer and social activist Pearl Primus. The piece premiered at the American Dance Festival in 2005.

In the company’s outspoken “Batty Moves,” made by Urban Bush Women founder and artistic director Zollar in 1995, the Caribbean word “batty”-used to describe the buttocks-is used with a tone that is both defiant and celebratory, directly challenging the audience to question their notions of physical attractiveness and appropriate movement. The piece features an original percussion score by Junior Wedderburn.

“Girlfriends” was made by Zollar in 1986 as a way to honor the camaraderie and bonds of friendship shared with college girlfriends. “Girlfriends” captures intimate moments of joy, sorrow, encouragement and outright silliness amongst those close friends you can always depend on.

Born and raised in Kansas City, Mo., Zollar trained with Joseph Stevenson, a student of the legendary Katherine Dunham. Zollar holds a BA in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and an MFA in dance from Florida State University. She moved to New York City in 1980 to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion. In addition to repertory for Urban Bush Women, Zollar has created works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and many others.

George Mason University, Dance Place and the National Performance Network present this performance; the Urban Bush Women tour is made possible by a grant from Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts regional touring program.

An artistic discussion, free to ticket holders, begins 45 minutes prior to the curtain on the hall’s Grand Tier.

Tickets are $36, $28 and $18. Charge by phone at 888-945-2468 or visit

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