“Why do we dance? Why do we dance together?”
Prolific, Black female choreographer Camille A. Brown tackles these profound but straightforward questions through vibrant, intensely athletic, story-infused social dance that has brought the pint-sized phenom tremendous acclaim and catapulted her to fame. Fresh off her critically acclaimed co-direction and choreography of the Metropolitan Opera’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones and in the midst of making history as the first Black woman to direct and choreograph a Broadway production in more than 65 years with for colored girls who considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf, Brown is bringing her Bessie-Award-winning company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers to the Center Saturday, April 2 at 8 p.m.*
The New York Times calls her “one of the most sought-after choreographers of her generation,” and the Pittsburgh Tribune writes, “Brown’s combination of dance styles, precision and fluidity, and remarkable musicality were enthralling.” In addition to her flourishing stage, television, and film credits, the much in-demand Brown leads the Camille A. Brown & Dancers with a focus to inspire and incite positive social change.
The company will be bringing that mission to the Center for an exuberant program that blends hip hop, modern, African, ballet, and tap and boldly explores African American history, culture, and identity. They will also be engaging with the greater community as Artists-in-Residence, holding masterclasses and events. The residency surrounds the company’s Center for the Arts debut, which will feature selections from their trilogy of works including Mr. TOL E. RAncE,” “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play,” and “ink.”
Later in the spring, Brown’s work “City of Rain” will be featured as part of the 2022 Mason Dance Gala Concert, performed by students of Mason’s School of Dance. On Wednesday, November 24, Brown took part in a first residency event during a zoom conversation with the members of the School of Dance community, including students, faculty, and staff.
During the conversation, Brown shared what she is looking forward to about the company’s performance at the Center:
“I have a couple of new members, so it's going to be exciting to introduce them to the community. There's just so much that’s gone on, with COVID and in terms of race. For instance, we're doing a portion of “Mr. TOL E. RAncE” which is about Black stereotypes in the media… I remember in 2011 when I was starting to work on that particular piece people were saying, “Barack Obama’s in the White House, we don't need to talk about race anymore--we’re in a post-racial society.” We performed the piece that year and again in 2019. I didn’t hear a single person say anything about a “post-racial society.” It'll be interesting, as we continue to unpack these past events and things continue to reveal themselves, how people respond to the work.”
For more on Camille’s recent work and journey as a choreographer, dancer, and performer, read this recent article by her alma mater University of North Carolina School of the Arts or enjoy her video featured by the TED Radio Hour on “The history of African-American social dance.”
*This story has been edited to reflect Camille A. Brown & Dancers new performance date of April 2, 2022. The original performance was scheduled for January 22, 2022.