Jawole Willa Jo Zollar Strengthens Community Through Dance

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

This week, FF2 Media is celebrating the 2021 winners of the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grants! Today, we’re featuring dancer and choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

Also known as MacArthur Fellows, these extraordinary recipients are awarded $625,000 as an investment in their potential. Each fellow has branched out either creatively or scientifically to earn this grant and has been nominated and selected by an anonymous board that believes in their originality and insight. The winners were recently named, including many women and people of color in a diverse list of 25 “geniuses” who can spend their no-strings-attached $625,000 however they see fit. 

Today, we shine a light on the work of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, a dancer and choreographer who was selected as a Class of 2021 MacArthur Fellow for “using the power of dance and artistic expression to elevate the voices of Black women and promote civic engagement.” 

She is the founder of Urban Bush Women, a dance company and performance group that focuses on equity and uplifting marginalized identities through leadership development, education, providing platforms, and many programs and opportunities. From a women-centered perspective, UBW uses its core values to create a space for underrepresented communities and beyond to come together. Her website lists these values as validating the individual, catalyzing for social change, building trust through process, entering community and co-creating stories, celebrating the movement and culture of the African diaspora, and recognizing place matters (meaning they intend to contribute positively to the well-being of their current location, Brooklyn, NY). Urban Bush Women is also the first major dance company to consist of all-female African-American dancers. You can find out more about UBW here.

In a quote by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar from the MacArthur Foundation, she explained, “Movement is the foundation of life. Dance takes this human imperative to an expressive imperative that supports our ability to make meaning and deepen our understanding of this world. Through this lens, I work to build leadership, choreograph new works, and create strategies for community engagement and organizing. I am inspired by how, when, and under what circumstances people move.  It is never-ending. As I said in a 1989 work I choreographed for Urban Bush Women, I Don’t Know But I Been Told If You Keep On Dancing You Never Grow Old.

Congratulations, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar! 


© Anna Nappi (10/13/21) Special for FF2 Media.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar



Featured photo: © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, used with permission. https://www.macfound.org/creative-commons

Bottom Photo: “Day Three: Civic Engagement Innovator Maria Bauman and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar” by Americans4Arts is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tags: Anna Nappi, FF2 Media, International SWANs, iswans, jawole willa jo zollar, macarthur fellow, Maria Bauman, Support Women Artists Now, urban bush women

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Anna is currently a senior at Brandeis University studying Film, Journalism, and Psychology. At Brandeis, she writes for the student newspaper and is the undergraduate degree representative of the Journalism program. From theaters to museums to concert halls, she loves exploring the art world in Boston as well as in her Maine hometown. Anna is passionate about FF2’s mission and excited for the opportunity to work alongside a wonderful team dedicated to supporting women artists.
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