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Home » News » Urban Bush Women: WALKING WITH ‘TRANE Commissioned by Opening Nights Performing Arts

Urban Bush Women: WALKING WITH ‘TRANE Commissioned by Opening Nights Performing Arts

Published September 27, 2015
Photo by Julie Cervantes

Photo by Julie Cervantes

Urban Bush Women (UBW) burst onto the dance scene in 1984, making an indelible mark on the field with bold, innovative, demanding and exciting works that challenge long-held assumptions about women, people of color, body types, society, and styles of movement. Founded and guided by the award-winning and highly acclaimed Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, the company weaves contemporary dance, music, and text with the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of the African Diaspora, exploring the transformation of struggle and suffering into the bittersweet joy of survival.

Urban Bush Women galvanizes artists, activists, audiences and communities through performances, artist development, education and community engagement. The company continues to affect the overall ecology of the arts through ongoing initiatives like the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) and Builders, Organizers & Leaders Through Dance (BOLD), with the ground-breaking performance ensemble at its core. Zollar’s current project, a new Choreographic Center, provides a platform to serve as a conduit for culturally and socially relevant experimental art makers by promoting artistic legacies, projecting the voices of the under-heard and people of color, and bringing attention to and addressing issues of equity in the dance field and throughout the United States.


Photo courtesy of Nick Korompilas

Zollar’s recent work WALKING WITH ‘TRANE, created in collaboration with choreographer Samantha Speis, dramaturge Talvin Wilks and UBW, and co-comissioned by Opening Nights Performing Arts at Florida State University, will premiere this week at the Nancy Smith Fichter Dance Theatre at Florida State University. This work is inspired by the musical life and spiritual journey of John Coltrane, a composer at the forefront of jazz innovation in a racially-charged America of the 50’s and 60’s. WALKING WITH ‘TRANE delves deep into the multiple layers of Coltrane’s music, spirituality, and life. WALKING WITH ‘TRANE begins with SIDE A: JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH ‘TRANE which explores Coltrane’s heightened performance “states”. From cool to hot, from ancient field hollers to gospel cadences, SIDE A conjures Coltrane’s essence. Strange reed riffs drive a spiraling physical journey through echoes of the blues, bebop, hard bop, and free jazz, scored in a dazzling array by Phillip White. In SIDE B: FREED(OM), performers play with the artistic imprint of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and plunge into the depths of Coltrane’s formidable legacy of diagonal pulls, suspended silences, and chaotic spirals with live piano accompaniment by George Caldwell and his masterful musical composition.


Photo courtesy of Professor Rick McCullough

Du’Bois A’Keen, BFA (2014) reflects on the mentorship and events that led to this opportunity to perform in the upcoming premiere of WALKING WITH ‘TRANE. As a Junior at FSU, A’Keen had the opportunity to work with Jawole Zollar as a rehearsal assistant in the restaging on one of her works. “I was entranced by her process and the transcription of music”, A’Keen recalls. One year later, as a graduate student in the FSU NYC Program, A’Keen had the opportunity to work as an intern for UBW while the company was rehearsing in New York. “I never had a perspective of being in the company because it is Urban Bush Women, and of course I am a man.” A’Keen further explains, “UBW is about validating the full person…what you see is what you get…what we talk about is what we live. It was because of the relationship I built with Jawole [at FSU] that she knew my work ethics and about me. It put me in a position to step in and start rehearsing immediately.” An opportunity, A’Keen remarks, “beyond my wildest dreams…know what you want and fight for it.”

WALKING WITH ‘TRANE was created in support by Opening Nights Performing Arts, and the world premiere is scheduled for Wednesday, September 30, 2015 with a repeat performance on Thursday, October 1, 2015. Both performances will begin at 8pm, and a pre-show discussion with Jawole Willa Jo Zollar will occur each evening at 7pm in room 216 of Montgomery Hall. $10 Student RUSH tickets are available as of September 29, and $15 and $50 tickets are available to the general public. Visit or call 850-644-6500 for ticket information.