Home Dance Jawole Willa Jo Zollar Wins Gish Prize

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar Wins Gish Prize

by Jersey Lady

Choreographer Jawole Wira Joe Zoller, who communicates issues of cultural identity and equity through dance, was honored at the 29th Annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Awards on Monday. The award, valued at approximately $250,000, is awarded to an American artist who has made “outstanding contributions to the beauty of the world,” by renowned actress Lillian Gish, and who has contributed to people’s “understanding and enjoyment of life.”

“I’m not trying to influence, be recognized or seen,” Zoller said in a telephone interview. “I think thinking beyond yourself is in my social DNA.”

Selection committee leader Kei Takeda said the panel received more than 100 nominations and chose Zoller in response to her community building and engagement generated through her creative work.

“She brought to Kanon a movement vocabulary inspired by African traditions,” Takeda, executive director of the Foundation for Contemporary Art, said in an interview.

“Aesthetically, she was a pioneer,” added Takeda.

Zoeller founded Urban Bush Women in 1984, an ensemble that explores black identity and systemic oppression through movement. Nodes of the present and decades past have left their mark on her work.

“I’m not waving a banner saying, ‘This is what you see on stage,’ but people were going through a company that deeply analyzed systemic oppression, racism, and sexism. is clear,” she said.

Most of Zoller’s founding members grew up in effectively segregated cities and imparted racialized life experiences onstage. Zollar didn’t want to obliterate his personality, but he used sound and whole body movement to enhance it. She challenged stereotypes in “Anarchy, Wild Woman and Dinah,” in which performers ate fried her chicken and watermelon, and in “Battie Moves,” asked dancers to put fight and rebellion on their hips.

“We had this Black thought and culture and way of life that didn’t need to be articulated,” she said. “At the same time, we also knew that we were always up for something, so how do you use that creatively?”

Paloma McGregor, a choreographer and member of Urban Bush Women from 2005 to 2010, says Zoller inspired her to quit journalism and pursue dance. Despite dance being marginalized compared to other art forms, McGregor said Zoller has an unparalleled skill in turning vision into action.

In addition to her strong choreography, McGregor said:

McGregor, who said he has nominated Zoller for several Gish Awards, through the company’s Choreographic Center initiative, which supports women choreographers of color, and through the Summer Leadership Institute, an intensive 10-day program to develop artists. , said Zoller has influenced people. She is a “frontline social justice worker”.

“Artists like Jawole too often go unrecognized until they’ve left us,” she said. She’s happy as a person to be in her life,” she added, but also as an indicator of the value of this work.

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