The Lula Washington Dance Theatre (LWDT) was founded in 1980 by Lula Washington (with her husband, Erwin) in the inner city area of South Los Angeles, California. Since then, LWDT has become one of the most acclaimed African-American contemporary dance companies in the West – known for powerful high-energy dancing and unique choreography.
Lula Washington is the main choreographer and “voice” of LWDT. Lula has created dances about homelessness; female circumcision (a practice that continues today); spousal abuse; gang violence; the 9/11 tragedy; police brutality; and homelessness. She has also created works about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; Rosa Parks; and Harriet Tubman. But, Lula also has a light side. She choreographed dancing fishes in Walt Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” movie and she has choreographed alien creatures for the James Cameron film, “Avatar.” Lula has likewise choreographed classical dances to Bach and Vivaldi; high energy African dances; and pulsating hip hop works.
Lula augments her choreography with dances by master artists Donald McKayle; Katherine Dunham; Donald Byrd (Color Purple); Louis Johnson (The Wiz); Christopher Huggins, and local icon, Rudy Perez. The company also does works by talented young emerging choreographers and its associate director, Tamica Washington-Miller.
LWDT has performed at such venues as Lincoln Center Out of Doors; the Joyce Theatre; the New Jersey Performing Arts Center; Jacob’s Pillow; the Ordway Theater in Minneapolis; the Pioneer Center in Reno, Nevada; the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; and at theaters in Germany, Spain, Mexico and St. Croix, Virgin Islands. In addition to touring, LWDT dances in scores of schools each year.
Lula’s dance company owns a $2 million dance studio in South Los Angeles where it operates a school and Youth Dance Ensemble that works with kids starting at age 3. The school’s motto: “I Do Dance, Not Drugs!” Lula won the 2007 National Education Association Carter G. Woodson Civil Rights Award for “Reflections In Black” a dance program that she does in schools. Lula also won the 2004 Minerva Award, given by Maria Shriver for her contributions; the Educator of the Year Award from the Music Center’s Professional Artists in Schools Association; and she numerous other awards.