BWW Reviews: Camile A Brown & Dancers' 'Mr. TOL E. RAncE' at Kumble Theatre
Creating an artistic work that can be controversial - where smiles and laughter do not always reflect joy and happiness; criticism and conflict do not always represent anger and shame--cannot be an easy task. Camille Brown and dancers in Mr. TOL E. RAncE successfully did just that at the Kumble Theater at Long Island University n Brooklyn. Despite technical difficulties that made the show start almost an hour behind schedule, the multimedia theatrical work explored issues surrounding minstrelsy, its shadow in modern society, and tolerance. A very creatively developed animated vignette opened the show, and throughout the performance presented an exciting and engaging backdrop. The performance was accompanied by pianist Scott Patterson, whose virtuosity was equally matched by the dancers in skills and commitment.
The hour-long work was presented seamlessly in two acts. Camille Brown's knowledge of dance history connectivity was on strong display as she effectively juxtaposed tap dancing and Lindy hop quickness into cabrioles and modern day hip-hop step. This was executed with a clear choice of puppet like expression or full joyous exuberance, while the dancers acted, sang and narrated. This cultural continuity was mirrored in the projections of pop culture television references.
Using dramatization, Brown explored modern day minstrelsy and tolerance in the perceived thug and video vixen culture. Though very clever and engaging, it fell short of the brilliance of Act 1, it at times seemed a bit didactic and predictable. However, with an audience filled with teenagers it somehow seemed appropriate.
Camille Brown showed a clear artistic vision that was well developed and thought provoking that even when there was a technical glitch during the work, the piece's statements were clear. Solo performances by Waldean Nelson and Camille Brown presented quiet moments of reflection that were necessary for an artistic work of this magnitude.
Photo: Dancer- Waldean Nelson