The University of Wisconsin Press

Dance / Cultural Studies


Urban Bush Women
Twenty Years of African American Dance Theater, Community Engagement, and
Working It Out

Nadine George-Graves

Studies in Dance History
Published under the auspices of the Society of Dance History Scholars

Explores the technique and social activism of the innovative dance group Urban Bush Women

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.

“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
  Photo credit: Tom Ontiveros

This is a photo of author Nadine George-Graves. Photo credit is Tom Ontiveros.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.

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The cover of Urban Bush Women is black, with gritty urban green type, wth a photo of an African-American woman, with fists on hips.

June 2010

LC: 2009041985 GV
296 pp.    6 x 9    38 b/w photos

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Paper $29.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-23554-3
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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




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Updated July 27, 2011

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