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


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