Mission & Core Values



UBW galvanizes artists, activists, audiences and communities through performances, artist development, education and community engagement. With the ground-breaking performance ensemble at its core, ongoing initiatives like the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), BOLD (Builders, Organizers & Leaders through Dance) and the Choreographic Center, UBW continues to affect the overall ecology of the arts by promoting artistic legacies; projecting the voices of the under-heard and people of color; bringing attention to and addressing issues of equity in the dance field and throughout the United States; and by providing platforms and serving as a conduit for culturally and socially relevant experimental art makers.


“As it is, in the intervening years since most of the material was made, [Zollar] has found her way to a wonderfully textured, important body of work.”

— Claudia La Rocco, The New York Times, 2010


Our Mission

Founded in 1984 by choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Urban Bush Women (UBW) seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance. We do this from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community in order to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond.


As UBW celebrates its 35th Anniversary year, we continue to use dance as both the message and the medium to bring together diverse audiences through innovative choreography, community collaboration and artistic leadership development.


UBW core values

Validating the Individual

Our individual histories are authentic in and of themselves.  Collectively, our histories and identities create a rich and diverse palette from which to do our work.  Each individual has a unique and powerful contribution to make.


Catalyzing for Social Change

UBW’s work helps people make sense out of the world and prepare to take action in it.  We offer bold and provocative viewpoints in our performance work. Our work encourages critical, creative and reflective thinking.   


Building Trust through Process

The answers to many challenges and creative investigations can be found within a group of people who share a commitment to working together.  Building work and strategies together enhances learning, organizational development and creative works. Trust is key to the building of these relationships.  A transparent process of artistic and managerial leadership builds and nurtures trust. We acknowledge the need for Leadership to provide vision and give focus to the inherent creativity within a group.  The Leadership is responsible for transparent and ethical processes that build trust.


Entering Community and Co-Creating Stories

No two communities are alike.  Each community is unique and has the answers it seeks to uncover.  In our Entering, Building and Exiting (EBX) work, we are not doing the thinking for a community but helping to facilitate its thinking through listening and bringing to the table what we are hearing.  We then interpret what we hear through the use of our artistic medium. Inspired by work like historian Howard Zinn and his book A People’s History, our work gives voice to untold and undertold stories and perspectives.


Celebrating the Movement and Culture of the African Diaspora

UBW is committed to highlighting the power, beauty and strength of the African Diaspora.  Dance from the African continent values the whole body in motion through a sophisticated use of polyrhythm, weight, pelvic and spinal articulation.  The Urban Bush Women technique builds upon these principles.


Recognizing Place Matters

While we are a touring company that does work all over the country, we intend to be good neighbors.  We recognize that being part of, responding to and contributing to the overall well-being of our home community, BROOKLYN, is of the utmost importance.  


Strategy Statement

We create learning communities where people, especially women and girls, can find their power through dance.  We nurture leadership skills and facilitate the use of art as a means of encouraging social responsibility and civic engagement.  We aspire to ensure continuity by strengthening and expanding our community via ongoing professional education, development of new audiences, nurturing young talent and presenting bold, life-affirming dance works as a vehicle for self-expression and catalyst for social change.