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Performance Artist

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar earned her B.A. in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and her M.F.A. in dance from Florida State University. In 1980 Jawole moved to New York City to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion, and in 1984 she founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. She has created over 34 works for UBW, as well as for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and others. Her company has toured five continents and 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. Jawole was awarded the 2013 Arthur L. Johnson Memorial award by Sphinx Music at their inaugural conference on diversity in the arts and the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. Recently, Jawole received the 2015 Dance Magazine Award, 2016 Dance/USA Honor Award, and the 2017 Bessies Lifetime Achievement Award alongside multiple honorary degrees from Columbia College, Chicago (2002), Tufts University (2013), Rutgers University (2013), and the Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA (2017). Jawole also holds the position of the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University. Her company, Urban Bush Women, was named one of America’s Cultural Treasures by the Ford Foundation in 2020.

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