Pilot activity

Pilot activities are being shaped in partnership with the UBW Staff and Board, the UBW Company, the UBW EMCArts Innovation team, and a Research Team of choreographers representative of the multiple tiers of partners of this initiative.


JUNE 2014
PNG Convening - UBW invited 40 choreographers, ranging from ages 25 - 60 to convene and investigate the role of Black women and female choreographers of color; barriers of entry in the field for this group; and ways the dance community could better support, foster, and build audiences for these artists. Research included interviewing, holding small group conversations and hosting House Parties in cities including Philadelphia, PA, New Orleans, LA and Oakland, CA.


EmcArts - UBW was awarded the EmcArts Innovation Lab for Arts Development Agencies grant and UBW staff, company and a team of stakeholders began work to explore the following question: How can we catalyze a paradigmatic shift in how the dance field identifies and nurtures female choreographers of color? A research team was formed to explore models inside and outside the dance field that could simultaneously develop and advance individuals, grow audience demand and bring about systemic change.  Following a series of four meetings and a five-day intensive retreat at the Airlie Retreat Center, UBW began setting the foundation and launch plans for the UBW Choreographic Center that would include a pilot year of activities.


Pilot Funding - UBW was awarded the final allocation from the EMCArts grant, a New York Community Trust grant and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Fund for National Projects: Phase II grant to hire a Choreographic Center Coordinator (Lai-Lin Robinson) and Content Curator (Jennifer Calienes), and conduct pilot activities.

Research Team - UBW identifies and hires choreographers Nora Chipaumire, Samantha Speis, Chanon Judson, Marguerite Hemmings and Okwui Okpokwasili as a Research Team for the Choreographic Center. Jennifer Calienes begins to work with the Research Team on creating articles, blog posts and/or essays to be published online and in print to further interrogating the founding principles of the Choreographic Center.  Jawole and UBW Producing Partner Jonathan Secor begin work with the Research Team on creating a Curricular Guide for the Choreographic Center and January 2016 Prototype week.

Summer Leadership Institute -  Jawole identifies two emerging choreographers, Marguerite Hemmings and Katrina Reid, to participate in the 2015 Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans as way to begin formalizing the role of SLI as a foundational component of the center. Lizzie Cooper Davis prepares a brief overview of this approach which becomes anchor content for Jawole’s keynotes in 2016.  


Movement Research Article - Talvin Wilks article “Legacy, Lineage, & Liberation Of The Pelvis: An Interview with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar on UBW’s New Choreographic Center” is published and distributed in the Movement Research Journal #47, the October issue.

Nonprofit Finance Fund - Through the NY Community Trust Fund, UBW hires the Nonprofit Finance Fund to help create a financial business plan that would incorporate the Choreographic Center.

Interviews - Jawole conducts formal interviews with established choreographers Camille Brown, Cynthia Oliver, Amara Tabor-Smith, Sidra Bell and Nia Love about their work and ways in which the Choreographic Center can support them.

Gibney Dance Double Plus - Jawole curates DoublePlus series with works by Marguerite Hemmings and Katrina Reid at Gibney Dance, providing the artists with mentorship, commissioning and presentation support and rehearsal time.

Dance/USA eJournal Article - Katrina Reid’s article Expanding Possibilities: Providing more options for women choreographers of color published in the Dance/USA’s eJournal.

Innovation Team Convening -  The original EMCArts Innovation Team convenes to review Choreographic Center updates, upcoming activities and plan next steps.


Website -  Launch of the Choreographic Center website

Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) - UBW works with a network of artists and allies to compile a list of activities during at APAP that address the conditions of women of color choreographer's work in the field and will share it with the community. Jawole discusses launch of the Choreographic Center at the Meet the Artists Salon following the APAP Awards Luncheon.

International Association for Blacks in Dance (IABD) - Jawole gives a keynote at IABD about the launch of the Choreographic Center.

Prototype Week - UBW invites 14 choreographers to participate in a week-long intensive with Jawole and faculty members Nora Chipaumire, Nia Love to test components of a curricular guide and exploring distinct ways in which the choreographic center can support women of color choreographers at the emergent level.


Serendipity - Jawole is keynote speaker at the Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers Serendipity conference in Leicester, UK wherein she discusses the conditions facing women choreographers of color that led to the launch of the UBW Choreographic Center.  

New Orleans Choreographic Seminars - Jawole Zollar, Chanon Judson, Samantha Speis and French actor and producer William Nadylam facilitated Choreographic Center seminars in New Orleans, LA in partnership with Junebug Productions, Inc.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Intensive - Jawole serves as Program Director and in partnership with Choreographic Center faculty and UBW company members facilitates Improv Traditions & Innovations: From Ring Shout To Blues To Jazz, an intensive for 24 choreographic-minded dance artists experience the rhythms, styles, and states of physical and mental being that are essential to embodying African American improvisational traditions and innovations.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Talk - Jawole Zollar and Jennifer Calienes discuss with Pillow Scholar-in-Residence Brian Schaefer UBW’s approach to building community and engaging audiences over the 30+ year history of the company from its early roots at Jacob’s Pillow to the launch of the Choreographic Center.  

The Generative Dancer Intensive - UBW Choreographic Center Faculty facilitate a comprehensive 7-day intensive where participants will have daily technique class and learn to generate movement through UBW's process and learning.  

Lincoln Center Education Summer Forum Keynote - Jawole Zollar and Jennifer Calienes give a keynote presentation about the evolution of UBW’s Choreographic Center and it’s mission to support women choreographers of color.

Summer Leadership Institute -  UBW invites members of the Choreographic Center as guests to the 2016 SLI in Brooklyn, NY.  Reflections on SLI as a foundational component of the Choreographic Center by Lizzy Cooper Davis is provided here.

Funding – UBW receives a planning grant from the Ford Foundation to support the development of the Center.

UBW Organizational Advancement Partner - Renee Taylor-Foles is hired as UBW's Organizational Advancement Partner.


Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers - Jawole's keynote address from the May, 2016 Serendipity conference in Leicester, UK is available through a new publication celebrating and exploring the impact that Black women have made on the international dance ecology.  The publication explores topics from the need for institutions and infrastructure to support work from African and African-Caribbean artists, and the key role of women within these organizations, to artists’ journeys taken to develop new aesthetics and an individual choreographic voice.   A full transcription of Jawole's keynote is available here


Dramaturgical Planning Convening - With support from the Ford Foundation, UBW convenes a group of dance scholars and dramaturges at The Mertz Gilmore Foundation to assist with programmatic planning for the UBW Choreographic Center.  

Administrative Support Planning Convening - With support from the Ford Foundation, UBW convenes a group of cultural producers, educators, agents, presenters and Executive Directors at The Mertz Gilmore Foundation to assist with programmatic planning for the UBW Choreographic Center.  


UBW Choreographic Fellowship Candidates Announced - With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, UBW announces five Choreographic Fellowship Candidates: Marjani Forté-Saunders, Francesca Harper, Marguerite Hemmings, Paloma McGregor and Amara Tabor-Smith. 

Administrative Support - With support from the New York Community Trust, UBW provides administrative support to three New York choreographers; Nora Chipaumire, Nia Love and Okwui Okpokwasili.

The Generative Dancer Intensive: Black Radical Traditions of Practice & Thought - UBW Choreographic Center Faculty facilitate a comprehensive 10-day intensive where participants will have daily technique class and learn to generate movement through UBW's process and learning.  Full scholarships are awarded to Dancing While Black 2016-2017 Fellows

Summer Leadership Institute -  UBW provides scholarships to emerging choreographers to participate in the 2017 SLI at NYU.


Dramaturgical Convening at Jacob's Pillow - UBW Choreographic Fellowship Candidates (Marjani Forté-Saunders, Francesca Harper, Marguerite Hemmings, Paloma McGregor, and Amara Tabor-Smith) convene with scholars and dramaturges (Lizzy Cooper Davis, Douglas Corbin, Gayle Fakete, John Perpener, and Talvin Wilks) to discuss and share methodologies around dramaturgical practice in dance and support for work exploring complex narratives that address culture, identity, and history.

Residency Site Visits -  UBW Choreographic Fellowship Candidates travel across the country for residency site visits at potential CCI partner institutions. Fellowship Candidates, CCI Leadership and partner institution leadership outline residencies to take place during the Fellowship year.

Fellowship Proposals -  Each Fellowship Candidate completes a proposal detailing the most helpful part of their Fellowship Candidate year, Fellowship Year project description and timeline, residency description, work agreement with dramaturgs, key institutional partners (in addition to residencies) and their levels of support, the focus of their continued mentorship with Jawole Zollar, and their plans to use an Opportunity Fund.


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