Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Event Slides Per Node 1415

  • Six dancers—each sporting a braided or otherwise interesting hairstyle and baggy and tassled costumes—are shown in suspended jumps and kicks.
  • A group of dancers are shown in various poses with arms stretched or legs and knees bent on a stage in front of an image projected on a screen.
  • A woman swings her arms behind and in front of her as she moves her legs in a walking-like dance position.

Urban Bush Women
Hair & Other Stories

7:30 pm Thursday, March 14, 2019

Since 1984, choreographer and artistic director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Urban Bush Women has given expression to the vitality and boldness of African-American women. Hair & Other Stories is a multidisciplinary work addressing matters of race, gender identity, and economic inequality in the lives of women of color.

The dance-theatre company has made an indelible mark with bold, innovative, demanding, and exciting works that challenge assumptions about women, people of color, body types, movement styles, society, and history. It weaves contemporary dance, music, and text with the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of African Americans and the African diaspora.

“The Urban Bush Women are committed, triple-threat performers who dance, sing, and act with a sometimes searing sense of truthfulness,” writes a critic for The New York Times.

Hair & Other Stories, choreographed by Chanon Judson and Samantha Speis in collaboration with other members of the company, is a “high-energy, politically adept, physically demanding metaphor for race, gender, and other intersectional issues in our country,” observes a reporter for WFPL radio in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Alternating between movement and dance, spoken word, projections, and audience participation allows this incredibly talented troupe to engage different dimensions of the conversation with carefully measured combinations of abstraction and direct narrative,” writes a reviewer for Oregon ArtsWatch.

“While Hair & Other Stories is provocative and pushes the audience a bit out of their comfort zones, the cast—all hugely talented as dancers, singers, and actors—treats the material very carefully and works with the audience to get them fully engaged and invested,” writes a curator at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans.

After the show, artists will engage in conversation with audience members.

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Adult $42
University Park Student $15
18 and Younger $32

All In

This presentation is part of the Center for the Performing Arts Diversity and Inclusion Collaborative, which seeks to: immerse an array of people in the performing arts; educate the community about cultures and art forms different from the familiar; influence thinking so we become a community that embraces diversity and promotes inclusion; ensure the activities of the collaborative have a sustainable impact on the community. Funds from across Penn State and throughout the community support the initiative. The University’s Equal Opportunity Planning Committee provides lead funding. Sandra Zaremba and Richard Brown provide support.

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation logo

This engagement of Urban Bush Women is made possible through the ArtsCONNECT program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Passionate Supporters of Dance


Artist Websites: 

Secondary Events on Each Event

Hair Party (Getting it Done!)

6:00 pm Monday, March 11, 2019

Penn State Downtown Theatre
Woskob Family Gallery
146 S. Allen St., State College

Free and open to the public; reservations required

A partnership with Woskob Family Gallery

Urban Bush Women artists will combine conversation, guided movement explorations, and performance highlights from Hair & Other Stories, its dance theatre piece about how color, length, and varying degrees of curl affect definitions of “good hair” and “bad hair” within and outside of the African-American community.

The two-hour event will also include a gallery talk on the concurrent exhibition Race and Revolution: Still Separate—Still Unequal, which explores ongoing racial and economic disparity in the U.S. public school system.

The event is best for participants ages 10 and older. Children must be accompanied by adults. The number of participants is limited to forty.

Community Sing

12:00 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

State College Municipal Building lobby
243 S. Allen St., State College

Free and open to the public; reservations required

A partnership with Borough of State College

Urban Bush Women performers will draw on African-American traditions and vocalization styles to engage participants in song and discovery of community connecting points. 

All ages and abilities are welcome for the one-hour event. Attendance is limited to seventy people. For reservations, contact Medora Ebersole, education and community programs manager, at mde13@psu.edu, and use the subject line: Community Sing.

Dance for Every Body

7:00 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2019

State College Municipal Building
Community Room 201
243 S. Allen St., State College

Free and open to the public; reservations required

A partnership with Penn State Ballroom Dance Club

Each person has a powerful and capable body with a unique contribution to make. Members of the Urban Bush Women company will share their techniques with attention to breath, weight, call and response, and polyrhythm.

This one-hour movement class is designed for teenagers and older participants. No dance experience is needed. All abilities are encouraged to participate. The number of participants is limited to forty. For reservations, contact Medora Ebersole, education and community programs manager, at mde13@psu.edu, and use the subject line: Dance for Every Body.

Artistic Viewpoints

6:30 pm Thursday, March 14, 2019

Eisenhower Auditorium

Artistic Viewpoints, an informal moderated discussion featuring a visiting artist or artists, is offered one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.