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Provocative, moving, powerful, explicit, strong, unapologetic. These are a few words that have been used to describe the groundbreaking Brooklyn-based dance troupe Urban Bush Women. Their unique aesthetic borrows from classical and contemporary dance techniques and theater characterization exercises, incorporates breath and vocalization, and employs space and movement to instill their performances with emotion and purpose. Urban Bush Women concerts are also deeply rooted in community activism, using socially conscious performances in places around the country—from the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center, and the Joyce, to community centers and school auditoriums—to inspire audience members to engage in neighborhood change and challenge stereotypes of gender, race, and class. Nadine George-Graves presents a comprehensive history of Urban Bush Women since their founding in 1984. She analyzes their complex work, drawing on interviews with current and former dancers and her own observation of and participation in Urban Bush Women rehearsals. This illustrated book captures the grace and power of the dancers in motion and provides an absorbing look at an innovative company that continues to raise the bar for socially conscious dance.
About the Author
Nadine George-Graves is associate professor in the Department of Theater and Dance and affiliate faculty in African American studies, ethnic studies, and critical gender studies at the University of California, San Diego.
“The author’s long-term engagement with the company has given her unprecedented access to Urban Bush Women. This clearly contributes to her in-depth understanding of the dynamics of the company and of the choreographic processes that undergird Urban Bush Women concert pieces.”—Sarah Davies Cordova, author of Paris Dances: Textual Choreographies in the Nineteenth-Century French Novel
“This important work will benefit anyone with an interest in contemporary Black choreography, indeed, anyone thinking or writing about dance of any kind. But I want to give a strong recommendation to activists for its documentation of the powerful confluence of art, spirituality, healing, community and social justice. And I especially want to see this book in the hands of Black women—even if they never bother with concert dance—for its example of honesty and its celebration of personal and communal agency which, as the author writes, ‘promotes a relishing of the [Black female] body, trying to take the body back’ from the centuries of myths that have obscured it and fostered its exploitation.”—Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody
“Urban Bush Women is a clear, concise, and accessible text that will appeal to a broad audience because of its interdisciplinary subject matter. . . . George-Graves effectively demonstrates the significance of Urban Bush Women as both an innovative dance company and an important cultural resource for articulating African American and womanist identities.”—La Donna L. Forsgren, Theatre Journal