Multi-Styled Choreographer Camille A. Brown’s Makes Miami Debut
New York-based choreographer Camille A. Brown is known for her wide embrace of many dance forms, from African to tap to street styles. Coming up on Saturday, as part of the 2016 MDC Live Arts performance program, Brown will make her Miami debut at the Miami Dade County Auditorium. Her project, Black Girl: Linguistic Play promises to be an explosive and entertaining expression of her choreographic versatility.
She began her professional dance career as a performer with Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence, A Dance Company, and made guest appearances in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Rennie Harris’ Pure Movement. She has since gone on to a prolific and award-winning career as an accomplished performer and choreographer in her own right.
Her artistic style shows clear influence by Brown and Harris — both are known for bringing street culture to the stage. But Camille Brown’s strong individual style and message shine through, and she adds a distinctive flair to the field of contemporary dance.
As is typical for Brown, Black Girl: Linguistic Play uses dance, movement and music to communicate a narrative of lived experience. In this new work she draws heavily on dance as a social formation, employing call and response, double dutch, steppin’, Juba, ring shout and more.
Many of these are rooted in African slave traditions. Juba, for example, is a predecessor to tap. It comes from West Africa at a time when drums were outlawed by fearful slave owners. The body was used as an instrument and became, like the forbidden talking drums, a form of communication. Ring shout is historically a religious dance brought to the U.S and West Indies by African slaves. A group of participants stomp and clap in circular formation, a practice that later made its way into 20th century African American churches. Steppin’ is a more recent percussive dance seen in schoolyards and African American fraternities and sororities as a group ritual.
Famed African-American choreographer Alvin Ailey once said, “Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” In keeping with Ailey’s sentiment, the dances in Black Girl: Linguistic Play are transmitters of personal history and group identity. Brown uses them to tell stories of childhood experience in black urban America. Her intention is a nuanced portrait, expanding beyond the struggle and trauma often dominating representations of blackness.
Due to the rhythmic movement in Black Girl: Linguistic Play, the whole is in large part musical. The piece is backed by live music from pianist Scott Patterson and electric bassist Tracy Wormworth, lending a jazz personality. To complete the show, expect an exchange between performers and audience.
For those who want to explore Brown’s movement in more depth, she will be offering a master class sponsored by MDC Live Arts on Wednesday in advance of the performance. The workshop is free and open to the public.
Camille A. Brown’s ‘Black Girl: Linguistic Play,’ presented by MDC Live Arts, Saturday at 8 pm.; at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 West Flagler St., Miami; tickets $25; MDC Students $10 ;305-237-3010, MDClivearts.org.