Camille A. Brown & Dancers to Bring 'BLACK GIRL' to Jacob's Pillow
Combining elements of modern dance, hip-hop, African-American social dances, ballet, and tap dance with throbbing rhythms, color chalk scenery, and live music, Brown explores representations of black women in today's society through a rich storytelling practice inspired by Kyra D. Gaunt's book The Games Black Girls Play. A 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and creator of the viral TED-ED Talk, A Visual History of Social Dance in 25 Moves, Camille A. Brown proves to be "a force of nature" (Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times).
"Camille has a deep history with the Pillow and we are delighted to present her highly acclaimed BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. It connects us to the power and fun of childhood relationships and reminds us how much that shapes our identity as adults," says Jacob's Pillow Director Pamela Tatge.
Within BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, Camille A. Brown & Dancers move through solos and duets that embrace a vibrant array of rhythms, music, and scenery. The changing environment in this dance is highlighted by an original musical composition, performed by pianist Scott Patterson and bass guitarist Robin Bramlett, as "their light yet groovy touch complements Brown's obsessive attention to rhythm and meter" (Katherine Bergstrom, Point of Contact). Scenic designer Elizabeth C. Nelson's colorful chalk background-reminiscent of a neighborhood sidewalk-and large black block platforms enliven the "play" of the dance and alter the typical landscape of the proscenium theateR. Brown herself becomes part of this scenic design with her opening solo of intricate rhythms, where the stage becomes an obstacle course that cannot win against her fast footwork and fluid movement. She then plays with another dancer as they energetically reference social dances, double dutch, steppin', tap, Juba, ring shout, and gesture that express sentiments of childhood joy that demonstrate the diverse, yet connected, dance forms that build this piece. Two duets follow that combine the work's overarching movement vocabularies while shifting in emotion, as the first holds a fiery and competitive tone while the second gives way to a narrative of nurturing and womanhood. BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play's combination of movement, music, and scenic design highlights "the great spirit in this evening-length work" (Gia Kourlas, The New York Times).
In BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play dancers explore their own stories, stereotypes, and social influences. Gaunt's book The Games Black Girls Play inspired the essence oF Brown's piece, which focuses on de-constructing stereotypes and oppressive social factors through the entry point of childhood play. Brown asks, "what are the things that celebrate us and uplift us, and are culturally specific?...What happens when you take Double Dutch and make it an art?" She notes, "when I decided that I wanted it to come from a personal place, from childhood, I really had to go back and figure out what was that first time that someone made me feel different." For her, the idea of "play" felt connected to growing up within specific movement styles that came in the form of games. In this way, BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play utilizes movement, rhythm, and personal histories to discover what it means to be a black woman in urban America, focusing on the playground and games as a "childhood source of empowerment" (Gia Kourlas, The New York Times). Brown emphasizes that "in a society where black women are often only portrayed in terms of their strength, resiliency, or trauma, this work seeks to interrogate these narratives by representing a nuanced spectrum of black womanhood in a racially and politically charged world." This socio-political dance uses the lens of theatrics, high-caliber dancing, raw emotion, rhythms, and dialogue to showcase the lacking positivity given to today's young black women.
This company uses musical and theatrical elements to story-tell within the lens of personal identity. Brown leads hers dancers into narratives, both current and historically based, to continue traditions within a contemporary, modern physicality. Camille A. Brown & Dancers teach and facilitate community-based dance and social justice workshops, seeking engagement of the black community and allies.
A characteristic of this company is "The Dialogue," a conversation that takes place post-performance between the artists and the audience, facilitated by a scholar or company representative. At Jacob's Pillow, "The Dialogue" will take place during the scheduled post-performance talk, facilitated by a Jacob's Pillow Scholar-in-Residence, on Friday August 8th after the evening's performance of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play.
Camille A. Brown is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, four-time Princess Grace Award winner, 2016 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award recipient, 2015 USA Jay Franke & David Herro Fellow, 2015 TED Fellow, and 2015 Doris Duke Artist Award recipient. Her TED-ED Talk A Visual History of Social Dance in 25 Moves, with more than 11 million views on Facebook, was chosen as one of the most memorable talks by TED Curator Chris Anderson. Brown has created commissioned works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), Philadanco!, Urban Bush Women, Complexions, Ailey II, Ballet Memphis, and Hubbard Street II. Her theater credits include: Broadway's A Streetcar Named Desire, Fortress of Solitude (The Public Theater), Stagger Lee (DTC), Cabin in the Sky (NY City Center Encores!), BELLA: An American Tall Tale (DTC & Playwrights Horizons) and Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM! (NY City Center's Encores! Off-Center) starring Lin-Manuel Miranda, among others. As a performer, she danced for Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE. Brown founded Camille A. Brown & Dancers in 2006.
Brown performed at the Pillow with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE in 2002, 2004, and 2005. Camille A. Brown & Dancers performed at Jacob's Pillow in both 2010 and 2011. She co-directed The School at Jacob's Pillow 2015 Social Dances Program with E. Moncell Durden. Brown performed in the 2016 Festival's And Still You Must Swing program in the Ted Shawn Theatre and also received the 2016 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award.
In addition, Brown has been a part of Creative Development Residencies in 2010 and 2011. Along with Francine E. Ott and Maria Monge, Brown recently finished facilitating a series of free dance and movement workshops in Pittsfield, MA from June 27-29. These workshops encouraged participants to find their own personal voices and celebrated African-American social dance within the community.
Brown can be found jumping in front of the Ted Shawn Theatre for the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival 2017 season image, found on billboards, program books, brochures, and other print and digital promotional materials.
IF YOU GO:
Ted Shawn Theatre, August 9-13
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm
Saturday & Sunday at 2pm
$69, $49, $39
A limited number of $35 Under 35 tickets are available; adults ages 18-35 are eligible. One ticket per person; each guest must show valid I.D. when picking up tickets at Will Call. Other discounts are available.
Jacob's Pillow, celebrating its 85th Festival in 2017, is a National Historic Landmark, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, and home to America's longest-running international dance festival. Each Festival includes more than 50 national and international dance companies and 350 free and ticketed performances, talks, tours, classes, exhibits, and events. The School at Jacob's Pillow, one of the most prestigious professional dance training centers in the U.S., encompasses the diverse disciplines of Ballet, Cultural Traditions, Contemporary, and Musical Theatre Dance, as well as an Intern Program in various disciplines of arts administration, design, video, and production. The Pillow's extensive Archives, open year-round to the public, chronicle more than a century of dance in photographs, programs, books, costumes, audiotapes, and videos. Notable artists who have created or premiered dances at the Pillow include choreographers Antony Tudor, Agnes De Mille, Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Kevin Mckenzie, Twyla Tharp, Ralph Lemon, Susan Marshall, Trisha Brown, Ronald K. Brown, Wally Cardona, Andrea Miller, and Trey McIntyre; performed by artists such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Carmen De Lavallade, Mark Morris, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Edward Villella, Rasta Thomas, and hundreds of others. On March 2, 2011, President Barack Obama honored Jacob's Pillow with a National Medal of Arts, the highest arts award given by the United States Government, making the Pillow the first dance presenting organization to receive this prestigious award. For more information, visit www.jacobspillow.org.