U is for…

“somebody/ anybody sing a black girl’s song… sing her song of life she’s been dead so long closed in silence so long she doesn’t know the sound of her own voice her infinite beauty” – Ntozake Shange

When I think of Urban Bush Women, this quote immediately comes to my mind. So much more than a dance troupe, the non-profit organization was founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and offers a female centric perspective to the untold stories and histories of the disenfranchised members of the African Diaspora. Using dance as a medium of self expression, the group uses the art form to express and expose issues of social justice and encourage engagement. Based in New York City, the award winning ensemble is internationally known and is heavy on the festival circuit.

Urban Bush Women performing Praise House.

Their core values really embrace community and confidence in oneself. They strive to uphold validating the individual, being a catalyst for social change, entering the community and co-creating stories, building trust through process, celebrating the movement and culture of the African Diaspora, and the importance of place. As a response to the needs of black culture and their surrounding community, Urban Bush Women have hit all the right notes.

Volunteers at a community service project sponsored by Urban Bush Women.

In addition to their unique choreography and multi-talented troop that sing, act, and dance in their amazing stage performances, the group is dedicated to outreach. Urban Bush Women has and monthly culture and community series in BK called Being Bushified, that offers community dance workshops. Their Summer Leadership Institute, is a ten day intensive allows the troop to connect with their fans and examine a pressing issue in the community. Through workshops offering dance, civic engagement, and dialogues and asset mapping, interested minds 18 and older can contribute to their movement and have a taste of performance. The Institute will be in New Orleans in 2012, more information available here. They take people of all levels, so even the most inexperienced dancer should feel inspire to participate!

Participants in the Summer Leaders Institute in New Orleans!

The real magic takes place when you experience their performance live. I first saw them perform when I was a little girl and was taken by the beauty in strength in the black women moving gracefully before my eyes. The choreography always draws you into their story, expressing the varied experiences and emotions of black womanhood. Some of their most famous performances Shelter, Soul Deep, Walking With Pearl, and the more recent piece, Body Talk are masterpieces in their own right. The newest generation of performers are impressive, with most current company members having joined in the past 5 years. In 2010, they were honored during their 25th anniversary when the U.S. Department of State asked them to inaugurate their cultural dance exchange program. They were one of three companies asked to participate. This is a testimony to the power of their art and ability to speak to people of all walks of life. These young women under the direction of the supportive and impressive staff are definitely a positive representation of the artistry of dance and a testimony to the strength and creative power of black women.

Performace of Zollar: Uncensored Dance Theater Workshop in 2010.


About Tya W.

Tya Winn: architect, urbanist, designer, cultural connoisseur, and the next great thing! View all posts by Tya W.

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