Florida State University’s Jawole Willa Jo Zollar was honored this week for her lasting contributions to dance through an award that recognizes trailblazers and visionaries in the performing arts.
Zollar, the Lawton and Nancy Smith Fichter Professor in the College of Fine Arts and founder of the celebrated Urban Bush Women (UBW) dance company, received the Award of Merit 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 the seven other accomplished performing artists nominated in the category.
“I was just thrilled and humbled,” Zollar said during the awards ceremony about her reaction to news of the award. “APAP is a very special organization to me. When Urban Bush Women was at the lowest point in its nearly 40-year career … it was really the presenting 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 received a MacArthur Fellowship — also known as the “genius grant” — for using the power of dance and artistic 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 backing from The Ford Foundation and philanthropists MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett.
“Jawole exemplifies the world-class faculty of the FSU College of Fine Arts,” said James Frazier, dean of the college. “This latest recognition of her professional achievements is added to an ever-growing list of well-deserved attention for exceptional contributions to, and engagement in, dance and performance.”
As a choreographer and dance entrepreneur, Zollar has forged a style of dance-making and artistic leadership that tethers dance to cultural identity, civic engagement, community organizing and imperatives of social justice. 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 performances, artist development, education and community engagement.
“We are very excited to hear about this latest accomplishment for Jawole,” said Anjali Austin, chair of the School of Dance. “Amazing educators like her are what make FSU’s School of Dance one of the top 10 dance schools in the nation and ensure a high caliber of training for our students.”
APAP gave out awards in eight categories. Carla Peterson, director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography — embedded within 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 Opening Nights at FSU director, was nominated for the Fan Taylor Distinguished Service Award for Exemplary Service to the Field of Professional Presenting.
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 robust, performing arts presenting field and the professionals who work within it. Our 1,700 national and international members represent leading performing arts centers, municipal and university performance facilities, nonprofit performing arts centers, culturally specific organizations, foreign governments, as well as artist agencies, managers, touring companies, and national consulting practices that serve the field, and a growing roster of self-presenting artists.
APAP works to effect change through advocacy, professional development, resource sharing and civic engagement. APAP is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization governed by a volunteer board of directors and led by President and CEO Lisa Richards Toney. In addition to presenting the annual APAP|NYC conference—the world’s leading gathering and marketplace for the performing arts — APAP continues to be the industry’s leading resource, knowledge and networking destination for the advancement of performing arts presenting, booking and touring. For more information, visit apap365.org.