FSU dance teacher continues to be recognized as a pioneer in the performing arts

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Professor Lawton and Nancy Smith Fichter at the School of Dance and founder of the famous dance company Urban Bush Women. (Photo courtesy of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Florida State University’s Jawole Willa Jo Zollar was honored this week for her lasting contributions to dance with an award that recognizes pioneers and visionaries in the performing arts.

Zollar, a Lawton and Nancy Smith Fichter professor at the College of Fine Arts and founder of the acclaimed dance company Urban Bush Women (UBW), received the Merit Award for Achievement in the Performing Arts from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) this week.

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell were among seven other accomplished performing artists nominated in the category.

“I was just thrilled and humbled,” Zollar said at the awards ceremony of her reaction to the award announcement. “APAP is a very special organization for me. When Urban Bush Women was at the low point of her nearly 40-year career… it was really the presentation community that kept Urban Bush Women alive. I have so much gratitude to be honored by this community.

Zollar founded the New York-based dance company in 1984 and joined the faculty of the FSU School of Dance in 1997. Last year Zollar was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship – also known as the “Genius Grant” – for using the power of dance and art. expression to celebrate the voices of black women and promote civic engagement and community organizing.

Over the past two years, Zollar’s work through UBW has also received support from the Ford Foundation and philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar standing in front of Florida State University's Montgomery Building which houses the School of Dance within the College of Fine Arts.  (Photo courtesy of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar standing in front of Florida State University’s Montgomery Building which houses the School of Dance within the College of Fine Arts. (Photo courtesy of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

“Jawole exemplifies the world-class faculty of the FSU College of Fine Arts,” said James Frazier, dean of the college. “This latest recognition of professional achievement adds to an ever-growing list of well-deserved recognition for outstanding contributions and commitment to dance and performance.”

As a choreographer and dance entrepreneur, Zollar has forged a style of dance creation and artistic leadership that links dance to cultural identity, civic engagement, community organizing and social justice imperatives. UBW is known for its ability to weave contemporary dance, music and text with the history, culture and spiritual traditions of the African Diaspora. The company galvanizes artists, activists, audiences and communities through performance, artist development, education and community engagement.

“We are very happy to hear about this latest achievement for Jawole,” said Anjali Austin, president of the dance school. “Incredible educators like her are what make FSU School of Dance one of the top 10 dance schools in the nation and provide high caliber training for our students.”

The APAP awarded prizes in eight categories. Carla Peterson, director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography – part of FSU’s School of Dance – received a nomination for the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence and Sustained Achievement in Programming, and Michael Blachly, former director of FSU Opening Nights, was nominated for the Fan Taylor Distinguished Service Award for exemplary service in professional presentation.

For more information, visit UrbanBushWomen.org and dance.fsu.edu.

About APAP, the Association of Performing Arts Professionals

APAP, the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, based in Washington, D.C., is the national service, advocacy, and membership organization dedicated to developing and supporting a field of performing arts robust performing arts and professionals who work there. Our 1,700 national and international members represent leading performing arts centers, municipal and university performance facilities, non-profit performing arts centers, culturally specific organizations, foreign governments, as well as national artist agencies, managers, touring companies and consultancies that serve the field, and a growing list of self-presenting artists.

APAP strives to bring about change through advocacy, professional development, resource sharing and civic engagement. APAP is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and led by President and CEO Lisa Richards Toney. In addition to hosting the annual APAP|NYC Conference, the premier global gathering and marketplace for the performing arts, APAP continues to be the premier destination for industry resources, knowledge and networking for the advancement of presenting, booking and touring the performing arts. For more information, visit apap365.org.

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