A Florida State University dance professor has been recognized by the Ford Foundation as part of the series, “The Future is Hers,” which recognizes women challenging how art is defined.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor and Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance, is one of 14 women featured in the series, which celebrates the power of women and girls around the world.
“Being recognized by anyone, period, is always amazing; it gives you the courage and the strength to carry on,” Zollar said. “But, to be recognized by an organization like the Ford Foundation, is mind-blowing. It is especially gratifying to be included in the company of such accomplished women, artists I hold a lot of light around.”
The Ford Foundation was created in 1936 by Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford. Over the years, it has supported distinguished women writers, artists, filmmakers and storytellers. These women have forced the world to rethink the very definition of the arts by using their gender as a lens and their work to amplify women’s voices, issues and perspectives.
Zollar is a renowned American dancer and choreographer who teaches in the FSU School of Dance. She is the founder of Urban Bush Women (UBW), a Brooklyn-based dance company that highlights stories of disenfranchised communities through dance from the perspective of a black woman and a member of the African diaspora.
“By using dance as both the message and medium, she has created a highly innovative way for a diverse mix of communities to connect and engage with one another,” wrote Margaret Morton, director of Creativity and Free Expression for the Ford Foundation. “Most recently, she established the Urban Bush Women’s Choreographic Center, a 10-year initiative to address issues of equity for women, particularly women of color, in the field of dance.”
Since creating the company in 1984, Zollar has demonstrated the power of performance and cultural expression to organize social change and drive conversation around controversial topics such as racism, sexism, abortion and homelessness.
“Like many faculty at FSU, my work in teaching is a creative laboratory for discovery,” Zollar said. “I think the ability to be among so many accomplished colleagues AND bright students pushes me to extend beyond my own self-imposed creative boundaries.”
For more information on the FSU School of Dance, visit dance.fsu.edu.