PRESS RELEASE: Dance/USA to Honor Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Ann Williams, Ella Baff, Sarah and Ernest Butler at Annual Conference in Austin, TX

February 17, 2016

Contact: Johanna Tschebull

Washington, DC – Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, is pleased to announce the 2016 Dance/USA Honorees:

  • Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder and visioning partner, Urban Bush Women, will receive the Dance/USA Honor Award.
  • Ann Williams, founder and artistic advisor, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, will receive the Dance/USA Ernie Award.
  • Ella Baff, former executive and artistic director, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, will receive the Dance/USA Trustees Award.
  • Sarah and Ernest Butler, philanthropists, Board leaders and global audience members, will receive the Dance/USA Champion Award. 

The awards will be given on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Opening Night Celebration, which kicks off the 2016 Dance/USA Annual Conference, being held June 8-11, 2016 in Austin, TX. The Dance/USA Annual Conference is the country’s broadest gathering of dance professionals, offering expertise from industry leaders, enriching professional development, and the tools to move the dance field forward. Early Bird Rates for the 2016 Annual Conference are available until March 18, 2016.  

“Jawole, Ann, Ella and the Butlers have made an outstanding and lasting impact on the field of dance,” said Dance/USA Executive Director Amy Fitterer. “To receive these awards, one must be nominated by fellow dance artists and administrators from across the United States. It is a true honor to be recognized by your peers, and I am very much looking forward to celebrating our Honorees in Austin, TX this June.”

Zollar, from Kansas City, Missouri, 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 received her M.F.A. in dance from Florida State University. In 1980 Zollar moved to New York City to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion.

In 1984, Zollar founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. In addition to 34 works for UBW, she has created works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University and others; and with collaborators including Compagnie JantBi from Senegal and Nora Chipaumire. Read more here.

Williams founded Dallas Black Dance Theatre in 1976. She is a founding member of the Dance Council and The International Association of Blacks in Dance. Williams received her early dance training under Barbara Hollis (a member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company), Edith James, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman. She received additional training under Alvin Ailey and Arthur Mitchell. Williams is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University and earned a Master of Arts Degree in Dance and Related Arts from Texas Woman’s University. She holds a certificate in Arts Management from Texas A&M University, received an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Northwood University, and in May 2008 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Dance from TWU. She served six years on the Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents. She is a 2002 inductee into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame; and in April 2005, she was honored at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. as a part of the Masters of African-American Choreography series. Read more here.

Baff, formerly of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, is the Senior Program Officer for Arts and Cultural Heritage at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York. 

She has received several awards in the cultural field including the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and Honorary Doctorates from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and College of the Holy Cross.  Ms. Baff has twice Co-chaired the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress in New York.  She is currently the Chair of The Gish Prize, and serves on the Board of Directors of MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).  Read more here.

The Butlers are being recognized for decades of support for dance and the performing and visual arts in Austin as philanthropists, Board leaders and global audience members, enjoying dance in cities around the world. Through their involvement and philanthropy dedicated to the arts and sciences, Sarah and Dr. Ernest Butler are one of the most generous couples in Austin. Sarah, a retired educator, and Dr. Butler, a retired otolaryngologist and founder of the Austin Ear Nose and Throat Clinic, are native Texans and attended Baylor University. They moved to Austin in 1969 and quickly became involved in many arts organizations. Throughout the years, they have not only become generous donors, but have also contributed their time and leadership skills as board and committee members. Sarah is the current Chair of the Board of Directors of Ballet Austin and the chair of the Ballet Austin Foundation. Read more here. 

The Opening Night Celebration is supported in part by DeWitt Stern Group. Freed of London is the exclusive sponsor of the 2016 Dance/USA Honor Award.

About the Dance/USA 2016 Annual Conference
Dance/USA will host its 8th Annual Conference in Austin, TX from Wednesday, June 8 through Saturday, June 11, 2016. Nearly 500 individuals will convene in Austin for the country’s broadest gathering of dance professionals, including executive directors, artistic directors, development directors, agents, artists, emerging arts leaders, company managers, marketing directors, dance service organizations, and more. 

Programming at the Conference will be a mix of discussion-based sessions and practical breakout sessions. Broad questions that will drive programmatic content and conversations will be: How will we continue to finance danceHow will dance deal with constant technological change, and What is the social responsibility of dance?  Dance/USA’s core values of equityinclusion, and diversity will serve as a lens by which the design of all topics and sessions will pass through including but not limited to the diversity of voices being presented, addressing the needs of the diverse group of Conference attendees, and program designs that allow for active discussion.

The 2016 Annual Conference will be campus style to showcase the beauty of Austin’s local arts venues. For more information about the 2016 Dance/USA Annual Conference, please visit the Dance/USA website here.

Dance/USA is grateful to the following: Capezio/Ballet Makers Dance Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Shubert Foundation. Additional thanks to 2016 Annual Conference sponsors: Ballet Austin, Host Partner; Arts Insurance Program, Platinum Sponsor; DeWitt Stern Group and Harlequin Floors, Gold Sponsors; Freed of London, Silver Sponsor.

About Dance/USA 
We believe that dance is essential to a healthy society, demonstrating the infinite possibilities for human expression and potential, and facilitating communication within and across cultures. 

Dance/USA is the national service organization for the professional dance field. Established in 1982, Dance/USA serves a diverse national membership of dance groups working in the genres of aerial, ballet, contemporary, culturally-specific, hip-hop, ice, international, jazz, liturgical, single-choreographer, and tap, dance presenters, dance service organizations, dance agents, dance educators, independent dancers, freelance choreographers, students of arts administration and/or dance and business in service to dance, and individuals related to the field. Learn more about Dance/USA by visiting our website, 

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