As the year 2015 quickly comes to a close, I want to take an opportunity to bring to the spotlight Camille A. Brown, who is an amazing African-American young female choreographer.
Camille A. Brown is known for her introspective approach to cultural themes through masterful storytelling and political dialogues in her choreography. She is a 2015 Doris Duke Artist Award Recipient, 2015 TED Fellow, 2014 Bessie Award Winner for “Outstanding Production” (Mr. TOL E. RAncE), two-time Princess Grace Award Winner (Choreography & Works in Progress Residency), two-time recipient of NEFA’s National Dance Project: Production Grant, 2015 MAP Fund Grantee, 2015 Engaging Dance Audiences Grant Recipient, 2014 Joyce Award recipient with DANCECleveland, a Jerome Foundation 50th Anniversary Grantee, a 2014 New York City Center Choreography Fellow, and most recently a Jay Franke Davide Herro Fellow part of the United States Artists Fellow Program. She has created works for a number of companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco!, Complexions, and Urban Bush Women, and has danced with Ron K. Brown/Evidence and Rennie Harris/Puremovement. If you have had the opportunity to see Brown’s choreography, watch her company- Camille A. Brown and Dancers perform, or just listened to her speak, you will see how deep and dynamic she is!
September 2015 marked the world premiere of Brown’s latest piece, BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. Accompanied by live original music by pianist, Scott Patterson and electric bassist, Tracy Wormworth, Brown draws on the unspoken rhythm and language among Black girls through various activities such as Double Dutch, social dances, and hand-clapping games. In an effort to reveal the complexities of a self-defined identity of a Black female in urban America, Brown seeks to create a platform that showcases Black girls being girls while telling their stories through a Black girl’s eyes.
Inspiration for this piece stems from Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship by Dr. Aimee Meredith Cox, The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-dutch to Hip-hop by Dr. Kyra Gaunt, and her close work with Talvin Wilks, a director and dramaturge. Brown looked to answer the question “What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Black girl?” as we find too often that our opinions are often shaped by stereotypes portrayed in the media and how exhausting life can become because of these preconceived ideas.
Preview the piece here:
I had the honor and privilege to see this piece performed at The Joyce back in September. It was truly great to be in the audience. Often times when I go to see a performance, I enjoy it because I like the choreography. But in this case, I was moved because I able to really connect with the characters in the piece. It brought me back to the days when I was growing up with games and ideas I haven’t thought of in years! I saw myself on the stage, which doesn’t happen often. I saw myself with my friends on the playground or the park. I saw me hanging out with my friends as a teen and how those friendships have evolved now that I am an adult. What a wonderful piece! Click here to read more on my thoughts from a review I wrote for Broadwayworld Dance!
For more information about where to see this piece and her company on tour, please click here!
2015 also marked the beginning/expanding of a few community outreach initiatives:
Conceived by Brown in 2014, The Gathering serves as an open forum for inter-generational Black female artists to come together to support and advocate for each other for greater cultural equity and acknowledgement in the contemporary dance world. It is the goal of these meetings to enhance visibility, understanding, exposure, celebration, notoriety, and sustainability of the African diaspora female choreographer voice, leading to more widespread acceptance, appreciation and publicity.
A Journey Through Juba and Other Social Dances
Through a collaborative effort between Brown, E. Moncell Durden, and an esteemed roster of dancers, musicians, and scholars,come together to explore African American social dances from jazz to hip-hop as part of a program at The Jacob’s Pillow School in July 2015. Emphasis draws on the aesthetic values and political histories embedded in the social dances while examining the influences and identities that remain embodied in the dances of today.
Black Girl Spectrum
Featured on the cover of the August 2015 Dance Teacher issue, Brown’s Black Girl Spectrum (BGS) is a multi-faceted initiative that explores the spectrum of identities among Black girls and women while creating a safe space for growth as creative citizens. The program seeks to bring justice, wellness, and peace into the lives of Black girls and women, and use social dance and open dialogue for empowerment and community building. This program served as participatory research that informed Brown’s piece BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. To read the full Dance Teacher article, please click here.
2015 was definitely a big year for her and I see many great and positive things coming in the near future. Keep an ear and eye out for Camille A. Brown as she is definitely someone who will continue to do big things in and for the dance community.