Recommended: Urban Bush Women

Urban Bush Women: Twenty Years of African American Dance Theater, Community Engagement, and Working It On

By Nadine George-Graves

the University of Wisconsin Press, 2010


In a nutshell: The making of a groundbreaking dance troupe.


“When I first saw them perform, I realized there was something much more profound going on here,” Nadine George-Graves says of Urban Bush Women. “It’s literally movement empowering social movement.” In this 230-page text, George-Graves, professor in the department of theater and dance at the University of California, San Diego, tracks the group’s journey from Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s start in Kansas City, Missouri, through 20 years of creating and touring bold, postmodern dance.


Using the Brooklyn-based troupe’s repertoire as a timeline, George-Graves highlights the company’s advocacy in African American culture, gay rights and female empowerment. The author offers her own interpretations of Zollar’s work in easy-to-navigate passages. Black-and-white company photos are scattered throughout. Ideal for any studio library or dance history course, this book demonstrates why UBW continues to be relevant, and it provides new inspiration for modern dance students to make a difference with their dancing.

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

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