About the Choreographic Center
About the Choreographic Center
UBW has identified several areas where the organization is best equipped to intervene over the next 10-15 years to improve the working conditions of women choreographers of color which include:
Peer and mentor based reflection and learning communities
Research and development residencies to advance the creation of new work
Advocacy and influence to enhance exposure and connection to the field
Curriculum development for experimental choreography rooted in identity, culture and issue/social justice based origins
Platforms for dialogue, reflection and presentation
UBW’s use of the term “Center” is a philosophical construct that disrupts 20th century notions of how groups organize themselves for the purpose of a common goal. Our use of Center is placing UBW at the center point as the initiator, gatherer and root system of a rigorous way to support female choreographers of color and push the field by privileging the building of nationwide partnerships and relationships over brick and mortar space.
With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, UBW has named five Choreographic Fellows: Marjani Forté-Saunders, Francesca Harper, Marguerite Hemmings, Paloma McGregor and Amara Tabor-Smith.
The UBW Fellowship Program is one component of the evolving UBW Choreographic Center, a ten-year initiative to bring greater national, recognition and support to women choreographers of the African Diaspora. The Fellowship Program is structured over two years and includes a 9-month planning process with Fellowship Candidates, followed by a full year of Fellowship activity.
The inaugural Cohort of Fellowship Candidates was selected through a rigorous application and review process. The Fellowship program will support the development of work dealing with complex narratives addressing race, history, cultural identity, ethnicity and pressing social issues. These five choreographers were part of a nationwide vetting to identify choreographers who have demonstrated readiness for the program, and have distinctive artistic voices and compelling point of views addressing particular issues of cultural narrative and history.
The Fellowship program has been designed to ensure the work, and the works’ multiplicity of components and vision, are more fully realized than would be possible without additional edification, reinforcement or support. The program includes direct financial support, one or more residencies, mentorship, writing and reflection. Participating choreographers have made a commitment to placing one’s choreographic process as the highest priority examining questions of craft, clarity of vision and execution of ideas in a rigorous and granular way through a dramaturgical and research process.
Marjani was born in Pasadena, CA and is currently a Harlem resident. Saunders toured with UBW Inc. for 5 years, and is now an independent artist and co-founder with Nia Love, of LOVE|FORTÉ A COLLECTIVE. She is a Princess Grace Choreography Fellow (2014), Jerome Foundation Awardee (2015) and participant of LMCC Extended Life Residency (2015-2017). Undergirded by a SURDNA Foundation Thriving Cultures grant, she curated a 3-month exhibit at MoCADA featuring the work of 4 multimedia artists encore performances of "being Here.../this time" and LOVE|FORTÈ's Memory Withholdings. Saunders recently choreographed Sampha’s Short Film “Process” directed by celebrated film director Kahlil Joseph. She is Co-Director of Pasadena’s Alkebulan Cultural Center, an active member of Urban Bush Women’s BOLD Teaching Network, and has served on faculty at Hunter CUNY, Bard College, and the Yale School of Drama. Her work stems from being born in and having engaged with culturally rich, vibrant, historic, and politically charged communities. Read her article here.
Francesca danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) and as Principal Dancer in Ballett Frankfurt. She was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts and has performed at the White House. Her Broadway credits include: Fosse, The Producers, All Shook Up, The Frogs, The Color Purple and leading roles in Sweet Charity and Sophisticated Ladies. Harper was a ballet consultant for Black Swan, and has appeared on Boardwalk Empire, David Letterman, and Oprah Winfrey, and is currently in Sleep No More in New York City. Harper has choreographed on Ailey, Ailey II, Hubbard St II, and DTH. Harper was honored with a Living History Award during Black History Month in 2013, and an Innovation and Technology award from Louis Vuitton for her choreography for Fashion week in 2013, and her piece, System, created for DTH, had its New York debut on April 21st, 2017 at New York's City Center. Harper was awarded a fellowship at the Center for Ballet and the Arts in 2017 in which she started developing a new immersive work, and film entitled (y)ourstory. Read her article here.
Marguerite is Jamaican born, raised in New Jersey, and has been living in NYC for the past 12 years. She graduated from Columbia University receiving her BA in Education and Urban Studies. As a dancer, Marguerite specializes in street styles, social dances, hip hop, and dancehall. She currently teaches Experimental Dancehall, a class that looks at the power of African diasporan social dance through a lens of dancehall/reggae culture and music. As for her latest projects, she has been working on a multimedia endeavor called we free that explores the millennial generation’s take on liberation. Iterations of we free have been shown at Brooklyn Museum, BRIC Arts Media, Gibney, JACK, and MoCada and will be shown in New Orleans this summer. Read her article here.
Paloma is a Caribbean-born, New York-based choreographer whose work centers Black voices through collaborative, process-based art-making and organizing. A lover of intersections and alchemy, she develops projects in which communities of geography, practice, and values come together to laugh, make magic and transform. She has created a wide range of work, including a dance through a makeshift fishnet on a Brooklyn rooftop, a structured improvisation for a floating platform in the Bronx River and a devised a multidisciplinary performance work about food justice with three dozen community members and students at UC Berkeley. Residencies include: 2016-18 NYLA Live Feed; 2014-16 BAX Artist in Residence; 2014 LMCC Process Space; 2013-14 NYU’s Hemispheric Institute Artist in Residence; and 2013 Wave Hill Winter Workspace. Grants include: Surdna Foundation; Lambent Foundation Fund; MAP Fund; Dance/USA - Engaging Dance Audiences. Read her article here.
Amara describes her work as Afro Futurist Conjure Art. Her dance making utilizes Yoruba spiritual ritual to address issues of social and environmental justice, race, gender identity and belonging. She is the artistic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater, and co-founded Headmistress-- a collaboration with Sherwood Chen. Amara is the former associate artistic director and dancer with Urban Bush Women, and has performed in the works of dance and theater artists such as Ed Mock, Joanna Haigood, Ronald K. Brown, Faustin Linyekula, Ana Deveare Smith, and Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Residencies and awards include the Headlands Center for the Arts, CHIME Mentorship Exchange, CounterPULSE Theater, and ODC Theater artist in residence. She is a 2016 Creative Capital awardee, and was recently awarded a residency at Sacatar in Bahia, Brazil. Amara received her MFA in Dance from Hollins University, and is a continuing lecturer at UC Berkeley. Read her article here.
PNG Convening - UBW invited 40 choreographers, ranging from ages 25 - 60 to convene and investigate the role of Black women and female choreographers of color; barriers of entry in the field for this group; and ways the dance community could better support, foster, and build audiences for these artists. Research included interviewing, holding small group conversations and hosting House Parties in cities including Philadelphia, PA, New Orleans, LA and Oakland, CA.
EmcArts - UBW was awarded the EmcArts Innovation Lab for Arts Development Agencies grant and UBW staff, company and a team of stakeholders began work to explore the following question: How can we catalyze a paradigmatic shift in how the dance field identifies and nurtures female choreographers of color? A research team was formed to explore models inside and outside the dance field that could simultaneously develop and advance individuals, grow audience demand and bring about systemic change. Following a series of four meetings and a five-day intensive retreat at the Airlie Retreat Center, UBW began setting the foundation and launch plans for the UBW Choreographic Center that would include a pilot year of activities.
Pilot Funding - UBW was awarded the final allocation from the EMCArts grant, a New York Community Trust grant and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Fund for National Projects: Phase II grant to hire a Choreographic Center Coordinator (Lai-Lin Robinson) and Content Curator (Jennifer Calienes), and conduct pilot activities.
Research Team - UBW identifies and hires choreographers Nora Chipaumire, Samantha Speis, Chanon Judson, Marguerite Hemmings and Okwui Okpokwasili as a Research Team for the Choreographic Center. Jennifer Calienes begins to work with the Research Team on creating articles, blog posts and/or essays to be published online and in print to further interrogating the founding principles of the Choreographic Center. Jawole and UBW Producing Partner Jonathan Secor begin work with the Research Team on creating a Curricular Guide for the Choreographic Center and January 2016 Prototype week.
Summer Leadership Institute - Jawole identifies two emerging choreographers, Marguerite Hemmings and Katrina Reid, to participate in the 2015 Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans as a way to begin formalizing the role of SLI as a foundational component of the center. Lizzy Cooper Davis prepares a brief overview of this approach which becomes anchor content for Jawole’s keynotes in 2016.
Movement Research Article - Talvin Wilks article “Legacy, Lineage, & Liberation Of The Pelvis: An Interview with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar on UBW’s New Choreographic Center” is published and distributed in the Movement Research Journal #47, the October issue.
Nonprofit Finance Fund - Through the NY Community Trust Fund, UBW hires the Nonprofit Finance Fund to help create a financial business plan that would incorporate the Choreographic Center.
Interviews - Jawole conducts formal interviews with established choreographers Camille Brown, Cynthia Oliver, Amara Tabor-Smith, Sidra Bell and Nia Love about their work and ways in which the Choreographic Center can support them.
Gibney Dance Double Plus - Jawole curates DoublePlus series with works by Marguerite Hemmings and Katrina Reid at Gibney Dance, providing the artists with mentorship, commissioning and presentation support and rehearsal time.
Dance/USA eJournal Article - Katrina Reid’s article Expanding Possibilities: Providing more options for women choreographers of color published in the Dance/USA’s eJournal.
Innovation Team Convening - The original EMCArts Innovation Team convenes to review Choreographic Center updates, upcoming activities and plan next steps.
Launch of the Choreographic Center Initiative and its website
Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) - UBW works with a network of artists and allies to compile a list of activities during APAP that address the conditions of women of color choreographer's work in the field and will share it with the community. Jawole discusses launch of the Choreographic Center at the Meet the Artists Salon following the APAP Awards Luncheon.
International Association for Blacks in Dance (IABD) - Jawole gives a keynote at IABD about the launch of the Choreographic Center.
Prototype Week - UBW invites 14 choreographers to participate in a week-long intensive with Jawole and faculty members Nora Chipaumire, Nia Love to test components of a curricular guide and exploring distinct ways in which the choreographic center can support women of color choreographers at the emergent level.
Serendipity - Jawole is keynote speaker at the Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers Serendipity conference in Leicester, UK wherein she discusses the conditions facing women choreographers of color that led to the launch of the UBW Choreographic Center.
New Orleans Choreographic Seminars - Jawole Zollar, Chanon Judson, Samantha Speis and French actor and producer William Nadylam facilitated Choreographic Center seminars in New Orleans, LA in partnership with Junebug Productions, Inc.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Intensive - Jawole serves as Program Director and in partnership with Choreographic Center faculty and UBW company members facilitates Improv Traditions & Innovations: From Ring Shout To Blues To Jazz, an intensive for 24 choreographic-minded dance artists experience the rhythms, styles, and states of physical and mental being that are essential to embodying African American improvisational traditions and innovations.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Talk - Jawole Zollar and Jennifer Calienes discuss with Pillow Scholar-in-Residence Brian Schaefer UBW’s approach to building community and engaging audiences over the 30+ year history of the company from its early roots at Jacob’s Pillow to the launch of the Choreographic Center.
The Generative Dancer Intensive - UBW Choreographic Center Faculty facilitate a comprehensive 7-day intensive where participants will have daily technique class and learn to generate movement through UBW's process and learning.
Lincoln Center Education Summer Forum Keynote - Jawole Zollar and Jennifer Calienes give a keynote presentation about the evolution of UBW’s Choreographic Center and it’s mission to support women choreographers of color.
Summer Leadership Institute - UBW invites members of the Choreographic Center as guests to the 2016 SLI in Brooklyn, NY.
Funding – UBW receives a grant from the Ford Foundation to support the development of the Center.
UBW Organizational Advancement Partner - Renee Taylor-Foles is hired as UBW's Organizational Advancement Partner.
Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers - Jawole's keynote address from the May 2016 Serendipity conference in Leicester, UK is available through a new publication celebrating and exploring the impact that Black women have made on the international dance ecology. The publication explores topics from the need for institutions and infrastructure to support work from African and African-Caribbean artists, and the key role of women within these organizations, to artists’ journeys taken to develop new aesthetics and an individual choreographic voice. A full transcription of Jawole's keynote is available here.
Dramaturgical Planning Convening - With support from the Ford Foundation, UBW convenes a group of dance scholars and dramaturges at The Mertz Gilmore Foundation to assist with programmatic planning for the UBW Choreographic Center.
Administrative Support Planning Convening - With support from the Ford Foundation, UBW convenes a group of cultural producers, educators, agents, presenters and Executive Directors at The Mertz Gilmore Foundation to assist with programmatic planning for the UBW Choreographic Center.
UBW CCI named the five Choreographic Fellowship Candidates: Marjani Forté-Saunders, Francesca Harper, Marguerite Hemmings, Paloma McGregor and Amara Tabor-Smith. Fellowship Candidates complete articles reflecting on their work, conduct site visits with potential institutional residency partners, attend the Dramaturgical Convening at Jacob's Pillow and write a Fellowship proposal detailing activities for their Fellowship year.
All Fellowship Candidates transition into their Fellowship Year of activity.