Skip to content

Lula Washington


Although Women’s History Month has come to an end, it is important to highlight powerful and influential Black female-owned businesses and companies. The Lula Washington Dance Theatre, 3773 Crenshaw Blvd., is a Black-owned dance theater company located in the Crenshaw District of South Los Angeles. 

The theater was founded in 1980 by Lula and husband, Erwin Washington. Their establishment offers high-quality dance instruction for inner-city youth. Thus far, the company has become world-renowned, with the dance company performing in over 150 throughout the United States and internationally in Germany, Spain, Kosovo, Mexico, Canada, China, and Russia. The Lula Washington Dance theater offers courses such as the youth dance ensemble, the master dance classes, summer dance program, and international touring that focuses on humanitarian and social issues, while including aspects of African-American history and culture. 

Lula is a teacher, dancer, leader and choreographer and mother. Her daughter Tamica Washington-Miller is currently the director of programs for the Lula Washington Dance School and company, she is also a choreographer, dancer and associate director. Lula is known for her fusion of African and Afro-Haitian dance. Her work incorporates gospel church, classical ballet, modern, street, theatrical, hip-hop, while incorporating spoken word in order to address current issues and progressive thoughts. She was the first woman to receive the Minerva Award from the state of California and First Lady Maria Shriver. She is also the recipient of the Carter G. Woodson Civil Rights Award, the 2009 Uncommon Angel Award among many others. 

Prior to her opening of the dance company, Mrs. Washington attended both Harbor Community College and the Los Angeles UCLA dance program, graduating with a Masters Degree in dance and is to date one of the most successful students graduated from the program. During her time at Harbor Community College, Washington was fortunate enough to experience her first Alvin Ailey production, which inspired her to pursue a career as a professional dancer. She says of her experience, “As I sat in the audience and watched the performers I was amazed and I was in awe of all of the beautiful dancers I saw on the stage. I quickly saw that dance was something that I could do, and the reason I saw that was because I saw a lot of Black dancers on the stage and at the time I hadn't seen any. I didn’t even know that they existed.”  

Lula and her husband own the dance studio on Crenshaw and Coliseum and Lula makes a point to note that African-American stories and culture is important to showcase through the art of dance. Lula has studied african dance, ballet, tap and jazz and believes it’s important to be competent in various areas of dance. She says one of the best attributes to have as a dancer is honesty and openness to criticism, communication, and time management. Although she is successful, it has not been without strife, even with her skill and expertise she mentions that while auditioning she experienced racism. Although challenging, she has channeled the rejection into positive criticism for her own students, encouraging them to arrive at auditions fully prepared to perform and be knowledgeable of all genres of dance that may be requested.

She goes on to note that her company survived the Covid-19 pandemic and is still flourishing, something that cannot be said for a lot of competing dance companies in Los Angeles. Many have come to Lula and praised her for her unique style of dance and choreography.  Open mindedness to interpretation is important for audience members, she even makes a point to speak to the audience about performance pieces prior to performing. She makes a practice of going and studying other choreographers working and learning through observation. “Dance has allowed me to be flexible, to share my voice, to create dances that focus on things and issues that are important to me and have not been brought forth through the art of dance. I share things and issues through my point of view.”