Chanon Judson-Johnson, Samantha Speis Named Urban Bush Women New Artistic Directors

Buffalo’s own Chanon Judson-Johnson and Samantha Speis have been named the new Co-Artistic Directors of the UBW Company. In this capacity, they will lead the company’s touring arm while maintaining their roles as performers and directors of the UBW BOLD (Builders, Organizers and Leaders through Dance) program.

UBW Founder, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, will continue in her role as Chief Visioning Partner, providing overall direction for the organization and its programs including the Summer Leadership Institute and the Choreographic Center Initiative.

The announcement was made at UBW Homecoming 2019, a two-day, event-filled celebration for UBW’s 35th Anniversary. “The 35th anniversary season is looking at past, pres-ent and future with the theme Legacy, Lineage and Liberation,” stated Zollar. “

Judson-Johnson, who joined the company in 2001, stated, “This transition comes with great planning and intention. Jawole has been sowing leadership in Sam and I long before this season of change. When it was decided to begin the shift in leadership, we were further equipped with mentorship, and the opportunity to grow our capacity as directors, and space to implement vision. I step into this moment as a Legacy Bearer – feet seeped in 35 years of learning and cultivating, head continually spiraling [a nod to Samantha Speis who joined UBW in 2008] towards liberation.

I am humbled, grateful and ready!” Reflecting back on her early days with UBW, Judson-Johnson noted, “When I got into UBW, my dad said ‘Very good, very good! You did what I told you to do. You found someplace that will nurture the artist!’ We All found this space, this ‘oasis,’ as UBW Board of Directors Chair Tammy Bormann calls it, where we can be nurtured.

I celebrate our Homecoming Celebration as an op-portunity for us to nurture the nurturer and to give back to the organization that has offered so much to us.” UBW also announced the addition of three new company members Jasmine Hearn, Elaisa van der Kust and Mikaila Ware, and new understudy Melissa Cobblah-Gutierrez.

UBW Homecoming 2019 was also the launch of the UBW Homecoming Campaign: Legacy + Lineage + Liberation.

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