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.
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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky Performing Arts' ArtsReach Dance Ensemble in the Brown Theatre rehearsal room. The dancers led the students
through warm-up exercises followed by a movement class, emphasizing their
process for developing movement from personal narrative.
Simultaneously, facilitated by Kentucky Performing Arts' ArtsThrive, 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
On Friday, February 23, four UBW members conducted master classes
with dance majors at Louisville's 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 dance educators taught students new warm-up
exercises followed by a class emphasizing interpretation of
dance techniques to support a choreographer’s vision.
That night, two UBW dancers revisited Athena's Sisters for a follow-up activity, creating visual art collages and building upon a shared sense of trust and purpose established the previous evening.
On Saturday, February 24, the dance company performed Hair and Other Stories for 500+ audience members, including participants from all four
residency partner program organizations. The powerful performance was
concluded by an artist-moderated question and answer session where community members were encouraged to share their own "hair stories."