Urban Bush Women in the Capital Region

Bennalldra Willams in UBW’s Give your Hands To Struggle. Photo by Ian Douglas.

Year: 2022-2023
DanceForce Member: Toni Smith
Artists: Urban Bush Women
Community Partners: The Egg, Albany; UAlbany Performing Arts Center
Audience: 351
County: Albany

Sandwiched between residencies at SUNY Brockport and New Jersey’s Rowan University, the UAlbany Performing Arts Center hosted Urban Bush Women (UBW) for three days in September 2022.

UBW traveled from their engagement at SUNY Brockport to UAlbany on Sunday, September 18. Honoring a well-deserved day off from two previous residencies, the company had no physical activity on Monday, September 19 but graciously agreed to conduct a late afternoon discussion with UAlbany students taking courses through the Department of Music and Theatre (Music/Power/Digital Tech) and Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (Women Creating Change).

During the day on Tuesday, September 20, UBW teched and rehearsed in the theatre followed by the first of two evening public performances.

In a morning matinee on Wednesday, September 21, UBW presented a lecture/demonstration to high school students who were bused to the UAlbany campus. This opportunity was taken advantage of by four very different schools: one inner-city, one suburban, one rural and one private which resulted in an incredible mix of students in the audience. A second public performance that evening culminated the residency.

On Thursday, the company left Albany to travel to Rowan.

UBW seeks to bring untold and under-told histories and stories to light through dance. The company does this from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond. The residency focused on UBW’s Legacy + Lineage + Liberation program. Created to celebrate the power of Women(+) in a program of classic works that transcend genres and amplify the voices of Women(+) of color, these iconic works by UBW Founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar give multiple dimensions of life that resonate in this time of reflection around equity and justice, and that lift up Black lives in inspiring ways.

The public performances were part of the Dance in Albany series which is produced, promoted and packaged by The Egg and the UAlbany Performing Arts Center. They took place in the latter venue’s Lab Theater, an intimate 104-seat studio setting. The two public performances and the lec/dem were filled to capacity. Ticket prices for the public performances were $10-$20. There was no cost to the students or the schools to attend the lec/dem.

In the 2021-22 academic year, Skidmore College’s Dance Department had a virtual engagement with Urban Bush Women. Following up on that experience, the department sent a bus load of students to see the Tuesday evening performance so that they had the opportunity to see the company in person.

Union College, another neighboring institution, brought a bus load of students from their Department of Theatre and Dance to see the Wednesday evening performance.

This residency served UBW well in that it provided a bridge between two large engagements. It served the Capital Region well in that the company had not been to the area in over twenty years.