On Wednesday, February 21, members of Urban Bush Women (UBW) dance company landed in Louisville to begin a three-day artists' residency with Louisville Metro community members prior to the public performance of their transformative work Hair and Other Stories at the historic Brown Theatre on Broadway.
UBW left an indelible mark on those they interacted with during their visit by using "dance as the message and the medium to bring together diverse audiences through innovative choreography, community collaboration and artistic leadership development."
First up on the UBW Louisville agenda was lunch and discussion at The Table in Portland, hosted by the Kentucky Foundation for Women and The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. Conversation topics ranged from working as artists and arts administrators for social change to sharing personal experiences of “hair” as it relates to race, gender, and identity.
That evening, three company members worked with The Kentucky Center ArtsReach Dance Ensemble in the Brown Theatre Rehearsal room. The dancers took the students through warm-up exercises followed by movement class, emphasizing their process for developing movement from personal narrative.
Simultaneously, three company members met with nine representatives from Athena's Sisters, a women's veterans group utilizing artistic expression as a means of healing. On the first of two nights together, the group used movement and introspection to affirm and claim their "extra-ordinary and whole selves.”
On Friday, February 23, four UBW members conducted master classes with dance majors at the Youth Performing Arts High School. They divided into two groups with two UBW dancers each in a class of 20 students. Accompanied by live percussion, the group learned new warm-up exercises followed by dance instruction emphasizing interpretation of dance techniques to support a choreographer’s vision.
That night, two UBW dancers revisited Athena's Sisters to build upon the work from the previous evening with a shared sense of trust. The evening concluded with collage work and the group sharing what they gained from the experience.
On Saturday, February 24, the company performed Hair and Other Stories to roughly 550 audience members, including participants from all four residency partner program organizations. The powerful performance was concluded by an artist-moderated question and answer event where the dancers encouraged community members to exchange their own hair stories in response to the piece.