BWW Review: A Powerful Evening with CAMILLE A. BROWN & DANCERS
Camille A. Brown & Dancers, notably recognized for their introspective approach to cultural themes and socio-political dialogues, kicked off its 2015-2016 season tour with the world premiere of their newest work entitled BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play for a week-long engagement at The Joyce Theater, running through September 27. Choreographed by Bessie Award and Doris Duke Artist award-winning choreographer Camille A. Brown, and performed by an all-female cast featuring live music by composers Scott Patterson (piano) and Tracy Wormworth (electric bass), this piece reveals the complexity of carving out a self-defined identity as a black female in urban America. Moderated conversations with Mark Anthony Neal and dream hampton engage audiences following each performance in a "second-act" dialogue around the cultural and universal themes presented in the choreography.
The piece draws from the identities of childhood innocence, beginning with a girl drawing with chalk on a wall and the bonds of sisterhood that develop from familiar games as "Miss Mary Mack" and "Down Down Baby" to popular double dutch moves to different social dances such as the Charleston. However, that playfulness does not last, as the knowledge and awareness of girlhood is influenced by the media and rocks the bonds of sisterhood through competitions of who can be more sexy as they literally "step over" their friends, who are now their enemies. Finally, onto maturity and how the world depicts adult black women to always be strong and independent .
Inspiration for this piece draws from many different avenues, beginning with Brown's own life and desire to tell the stories of black girls through their own eyes and not through the dominance of popular culture. During the post-show discussion, Brown mentions how she started the creative process two years ago by asking the question, "What do you think of when you hear the phrase Black girl?" She got many different answers from loud to strong, but never heard the word human. This was very troublesome to Brown as she pondered the question of reversing the negative stereotypes and presenting black girls in a positive light. Inspiration also came 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 Talvin Wilks, a director and dramaturg who worked closely with Brown.
If you have not already, please be sure to catch this piece at the Joyce for the remainder of itsrun through September 27, before the company hits the road for its US tour in several cities across the nation, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. Tickets for the remaining Joyce season can be purchased through JoyceCharge online at www.joyce.org or by calling 212-242-0800. The Joyce Theater is located at 175 Eighth Avenue at 19th Street.
Photo Credit: Christopher Duggan