Thank You, Urban Bush Women!


IMG_0671The week-long residency and presentation of Urban Bush Women’s Walking with ‘Trane ended triumphantly this past Saturday night. Thank you to Jawole, dancers, musicians, tech and admin teams, and also to our terrific technical leadership and crew at The Dance Center for a rich, heartfelt and ferociously performed work! Our audiences loved it and our students came away challenged and inspired.

We thank also our community partners at Links Hall, Striding Lion, and Red Clay Dance Company and Red Clay Dance Youth Ensemble for their participation in the residency week of activities and events. Over the course of the residency, four community events and exchanges were conducted in three different locations around the city, in addition to the half-dozen classes that UBW company members taught right here in The Dance Center with our students and faculty. In addition, we hosted groups from Northwestern University and Ayodele Drum and Dance, and two high schools here in Chicago (ChiArts Academy and Jones Prep) for performances.   On a weekend when tons of dance was going on across the city, we were definitely one of the places to be.

One of the reasons we love working with Urban Bush Women, and have brought them back to Chicago so many times, is – of course – the high quality of the work they bring to the stage. Their commitment to bringing forward, through the creation of beautifully-performed dance theater, the stories and experiences of peoples often marginalized or left out of mainstream cultural visibility and discourse is not just admirable, it is essential to the manifestation of a society that can and does affirm and embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. Walking with ‘Trane is the company’s newest completed and performed testimony to their mission. We are proud to be a presenting organization that can help put this work, as art and as social advocacy, into circulation.

So we bid our dear friends from UBW farewell with all good wishes for continued success and more glorious dancing. May they return to our fair Lake Michigan shores before too long.

Next we prepare for another company that always brings exceptional, and exceptionally felt, dance theater to our stage: Joe Goode Performance Group.




Program Notes: Urban Bush Women February 18, 19, 20

We are excited to welcome the Urban Bush Women back to the Dance Center stage for a second visit in as many years. Under the artistic direction of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, UBW has enthralled Dance Center audiences with thought-provoking performances since the 1989-1900 season. Rest assured, the Chicago premiere of Walking with ‘Trane will equally inspire. This new evening-length project, which had a triumphant run at Brooklyn Academy of Music in December, celebrates two important legacies in concert dance and music—UBW’s thirty-year anniversary and the fifty-year anniversary of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking A Love Supreme. Just as Coltrane’s complex, melodious mastery of the alto saxophone created a blueprint for jazz composition and performance globally, UBW’s relentless commitment to communing, collecting, choreographing and performing the stories of people throughout the African Diaspora continues to influence the way dancers fuse concert and African American vernacular dance, and engage communities. This is not conventional jazz dance, and yet it is a fully-realized fusion of content, mastery and practice that gives us new insight into what jazz music and dancing can do, and be, and say, to all of us.

Walking with ‘Trane includes an insightful collaboration between UBW and Grammy Award winning composer/pianist George Caldwell. Together the dancers and musician riff off of A Love Supreme to create a performance that kinesthetically and sonically echoes the past, reflects the present replete with its complications, and invites audiences to envision harmonious futures.

Raquel L. Monroe, Ph.D.


Residency underway!

Above and below:  UBW company members at Links Hall for the Peep Show, February 16.  Above:  l- Stephanie Mas, r-Chanon Judson  Below: l-DuBois A’Keen, middle – Courtney Cook, r- Tendayi Kuumba



Coming Up: Urban Bush Women

by guest blogger/research intern Lizzi Wood, class of 2016


Urban Bush Women (UBW) and Artistic Director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar have a long and rich history with The Dance Center. Their first performance on our stage was in the 1989/1990 season, in our old space at 4730 N. Sheridan Road. Since then we have enjoyed multiple residencies and projects with this remarkable company including commissioning new works for their repertory, and we have facilitated an ever‐deepening relationship between them and our students and community partners. UBW is nationally known for bringing the stories of disenfranchised people to the stage, with a focus on women‐centered perspectives within the African diaspora. They will premiere their latest work, Walking With ’Trane, at The Dance Center next weekend (February 18–20).

Last season, The Dance Center received a Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Exploration grant intended to provide a space in which Zollar could create work that connected jazz musicians and fans with Columbia students studying dance, music and theatre. Zollar and the dancers of UBW spent more than two weeks in Chicago in fall 2014 exploring this concept. During that residency, Zollar and UBW company members taught master classes in contemporary dance improvisation to Dance Center students, presented a Peep Show at Links Hall and further researched the relationship between jazz music and contemporary dance emerging from the global Black experience. To culminate this experience, UBW company members performed during a Jazz Improv Brunch at the Chicago Artists Coalition. All these activities contributed to the development of a new work.

Walking with ’Trane uses the cutting‐edge movement vocabulary Urban Bush Women are recognized for, while paying homage to jazz master John Coltrane. His 1965 album, A Love Supreme, while not initially well received, has gained legendary status in the jazz music community. Both A Love Supreme and Urban Bush Women have recently celebrated important anniversaries, their 50th and 30th, respectively. Zollar has produced a work that both honors A Love Supreme and reinvents the essence of the music. Her collaborators on the project include co‐choreographer and company member Samantha Spies, dramaturg Talvin Wilks and composers George Caldwell and Philip White. The work, which premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 2015, receives its Chicago premiere on our stage.

Urban Bush Women will be in residence at Columbia College Chicago all of next week, teaching and conducting community workshops. A special Peep Show will take place at Links Hall on Tuesday, February 16 at 8pm, open to the public for $5 admission. A post‐performance conversation with UBW will take place Thursday, February 18, and a pre‐performance talk with Zollar will take place Friday, February 19 at 6:30pm. Both of these events are free to ticket holders. Performances are February 18–20 at The Dance Center, located at 1306 S. Michigan Ave. For additional ticketing information, visit

Thank You Giordano Dance Chicago

Our spring 2016 season launched with a terrific and enthusiastically-attended weekend presentation by Giordano Dance Chicago, the nation’s oldest jazz dance ensemble and one of Chicago’s most beloved dance institutions. It had been 37 years since their last appearance on the Dance Center’s stage! We won’t let it go anywhere near that long next time.

It was truly an honor to host this exceptionally well-trained and richly dynamic cohort of dancers in an evening entitled Closer Than Ever. The five works on the program roared by in a wonderful blaze of variety and energy. In her review for See Chicago Dance, Lauren Warnecke got it exactly right: “The close proximity shows every mistake, but by my calculation, they didn’t make any. For this viewer, that was worth standing up for.” Artistic director Nan Giordano has done visionary work with the company by balancing their long tradition of “classical” jazz dance based on the choreography and training of her amazing dad and the company’s founder, Gus Giordano, with securing and commissioning new contemporary material for the company. We saw it all up close and personal this weekend, and were truly thrilled at how terrific they all looked on our stage.

One of the things that The Dance Center is very glad to be doing is working with a number of our Chicago-based dance troupes and independent choreographers by including them on our annual performance season. Some presenters create a separate program that distinguishes between the “local” artists and those coming from other parts of the nation and the world. Our philosophy reflects our belief that world-class excellence and juicy artistic provocation reside and flourish just as much out of our own community as from New York or London or Los Angeles or Taipei. So when you see Giordano, or The Seldoms, or Same Planet Different World, or Chicago Dance Crash, or our founder Shirley Mordine’s company on our stage, you’re seeing our philosophy and curatorial commitment in action.

Giordano Dance Chicago has more ahead this spring season, including a spring series at The Harris Theater (April 1-2).  Follow their activities on their website here:

And we hope to see you, gentle viewer, for our next presentation the weekend of February 18-20: the return of Urban Bush Women and the Chicago premiere of Walking With ‘Trane.