Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, the Lawton and Nancy Smith Fichter Professor in the College of Fine Arts at Florida State University, received the Award of Merit for Achievement in the Performing Arts from the Association of Performing Arts Professionals. The award is given “to an individual, group or ensemble whose genius, energy and excellence have defined or redefined an art form for today’s audiences and has had a profound and lasting effect on the performing arts.”
Professor Zollar was honored for her work with the Urban Bush Women dance company. Zollar founded the New York-based dance company in 1984. 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. Urban Bush Women is known for its ability to weave contemporary dance, music and text with the history, culture and spiritual traditions of the African diaspora.
“I was just thrilled and humbled,” Professor Zollar said 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.”
Professor Zollar joined the faculty at the School of Dance at Florida State University in 1997. In 2021, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.”
A native of Kansas City, Professor Zollar received a bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and a master of fine arts degree in dance from Florida State University.