Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar trained with Joseph Stevenson, a student of the legendary Katherine Dunham. After earning her B.A. in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, she moved to New York City in 1980 to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion. Four years later, she founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) in 1984 as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. Jawole burst onto the scene and made an indelible mark on the field by challenging assumptions about body types, styles of movement, appropriate content and the role of community in creation. Still dancing, she is an innovator and a vanguard of dance.
Jawole received her M.F.A in dance from Florida State University and is the Nancy Smith Fichter tenured professor in FSU's Dance Department.
In addition to the 33 works created for Urban Bush Women, Jawole’s choreography is part of the repertory of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater / Philadanco / Dayton Contemporary Dance Company / Ballet Arizona / University of Maryland / University of Florida / Virginia Commonwealth University / Towson University and others.
Jawole was invited to participate in a meeting the White House convened on using creative and collaborative approaches to community-building and civic engagement.
Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Presented for choreography.