Jawole Willa Jo Zollar received a B.F.A. in Dance from Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and her Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from Florida State University at Tallahassee. She has created nearly 40 dances, served as artist in residence at major institutions across the nation and received numerous citations, grants, commissions and awards including a ”BESSIE“ for her innovative choreographic work. In 1984, Jawole founded Urban Bush Women, a performance ensemble known for its socially and politically charged vision. Jawole Zollar and Urban Bush Women are among the pioneering artists initiating collaborative performance residencies that serve to connect communities to their cultural histories and creative synergies.
Among her better-known dances are Batty Moves, Shelter, Girlfriends, Self-Portrait, Transitions, Bitter Tongue. Other full-evening works include Soul Deep, BONES AND ASH: A Gilda Story, adapted by Jewelle Gomez from her book, The Gilda Stories. In addition to more than 30 works for Urban Bush Women, Ms. Zollar has created works for Ballet Arizona, Philadanco, the University of Maryland, and the University of Florida. She was commissioned to design the movement for House Arrest, a play by Anna Deavere Smith, produced by the Arena Stage (Washington, DC), and the Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles); and to choreograph a revival of St. Louis Woman, produced at the American Music Theater Festival, for which she received a Philadelphia Barrymore nomination. Ms. Zollar’s critically acclaimed dance Shelter (1992), created for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, made a highly anticipated return to that company’s repertory in 2002.
She has served as Worlds of Thought Resident Scholar at Mankato State University, Regents Lecturer in the Departments of Dance and World Arts and Culture at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and as Visiting Artist at Ohio State University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of California at Riverside.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar was prominently featured in the PBS documentary Free to Dance, which chronicles the African-American influence on modern dance. In 1993, Ms. Zollar was named Alumna of the Year by the University of Missouri at Kansas City, where she received a B.A. in Dance. Florida State University also bestowed this honor upon her in 1997. In June 2002, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Columbia College, Chicago. Ms. Zollar currently holds a Nancy Smith Fichter tenured professorship in the Department of Dance at Florida State University.