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Jawole Willa Jo Zollar


Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, from Kansas City, Missouri, trained with Joseph Stevenson, a student of the legendary Katherine Dunham. After earning her BA in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, she received her MFA in dance from Florida State University. In 1980 Jawole moved to New York City to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion. In 1984, Jawole founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. In addition to 34 works for UBW, she has created works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University and others. In 2006 Jawole received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for her work as choreographer/creator and was designated a Master of Choreography by the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in 2005. As an artist whose work is geared towards building equity and diversity in the arts Jawole was awarded the Arthur L. Johnson Memorial award by Sphinx Music at their inaugural conference on diversity in the arts. In 2013, Jawole received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and honorary degrees from Columbia College, Chicago, Tufts University, Rutgers University, and the Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. Jawole received the 2015 Dance Magazine Award, 2016 Dance/USA Honor Award, the 2017 Bessie Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2021 Dance Teacher Award of Distinction, and a 2021 fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.