Questions of Practice: Choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar on Artistic Evolution and Risk

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, choreographer and founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women, discusses her evolution as a choreographer and the importance of embracing risk throughout her practice. “Risk exists on the edge of failure…so if you’re not right on that edge of failure…you’re not in a place of risk. Living on that edge and learning from that edge to me is a really exciting place,” she says.

Choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar on artistic evolution and risk. Filmed at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on February 3, 2016.

Choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar is founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women (UBW), a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. In addition to her work with UBW, Zollar has created works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, Virginia Commonwealth University, among others; and with collaborators including Nora Chipaumire and Compagnie Jant-Bi. A professor of dance at Florida State University, her honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Doris Duke Artist Award, and a USA Wynn Fellowship.


Collaborators & Colleagues

Roger LaMay is general manager at WXPN (88.5 FM), a public radio station operated by the University of Pennsylvania.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Artist and community activist Rick Lowe is the founder of Project Row Houses, a neighborhood-based nonprofit arts and cultural organization in Houston’s Northern Third Ward.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Marian Bantjes is a Canadian graphic artist, designer, typographer, and writer. Her work was included in Word & Image, a Center-funded contemporary exhibition, part of Framing Fraktur at the Free Library of Philadelphia in 2015.

Grants & Grantees

Headlong Dance Theater produced Improvisation Lab, an interdisciplinary movement project that involved choreographer Miguel Gutierrez and Dan Rothenberg of Pig Iron Theatre Company.

Grants & Grantees

Nava EtShalom is a poet and a 2006 Pew Fellow.

The finale concert of the Mann Center’s Philadelphia Freedom Festival, “Gospel Meets Symphony,” has received widespread media attention.

Founded in 1986, Sruti promotes and presents Indian classical music and dance to educate the greater Philadelphia community on the importance of Indian arts.

Questions of Practice

For the conclusion of Act I of our Push Me, Pull You series, we posed some remaining questions about (co-)authorship to Gordon, the 2011–13 Visiting Artist at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Anna Drozdowski is an independent curator working in non-traditional, hybrid, and new performance practices.

Grants & Grantees

Inis Nua Theatre produces provocative contemporary plays from Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.

Grants & Grantees

Dan Rothenberg is a theater artist, a founding member and co-artistic director of Pig Iron Theatre Company, and a 2002 Pew Fellow.

Zizka talks with us about the Wilma’s identity and approach to theater making, her commitment to learning and experimentation, her vision for the future, and more.