Ann Arbor Observer cover
Send YCS Students to DC
Ann Arbor Weather:
Sunday October 13, 2019
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Camille A. Brown dancers

Camille A. Brown & Dancers

Black Girl: Linguistic Play

by Susan Nisbett

From the February, 2016 issue

When Camille Brown choreographed Black Girl: Linguistic Play, she had both personal and political motivations: to "remind myself of the beauty of who I was before the world defined me," she explained at the show's premiere run, which I caught at New York's Joyce Theater in September. The dance is an essay on black girlhood that's high on joy, spunk, and tenderness.

"I didn't see anything that reflected my childhood," she said. Hence this dance, for herself and five women from her company. Drawing on the oral and kinetic vocabulary of black-girl childhood games--an early inspiration was a book by ethnomusicologist and U-M alum Kyra Gaunt, The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop--Brown's dance is rich in rhyme, rhythm, and history. It's about unspoken language and gesture, culture, connection, and self-defined identity. The lexicon is particular; the communication, universal.

A prolific choreographer with numerous awards for her dance and theater work, the thirty-something Brown is also a powerhouse dancer. "My name is Cami, and I am small," she sang out in an exhilarating game-song episode that elicited audience participation. "But when you see me, you think I'm tall." That's precisely the impression the petite, compact Brown makes as she starts the show, reaching up into space as if to summon her past, a soft babble of voices in the background.

Set designer Elizabeth Nelson gives Brown an urban playground for Black Girl, with platforms of various heights to dance on, around, and in between. Behind the highest, a blackboard wall rises, chalked with swirls and squiggles, flowers and fireworks. Overhead, mirrors reflect novel views of the dancers' moves. Pianist Scott Paterson and electric bassist Tracy Wormworth, who composed music for the dance, share the stage. Some movements occur to silence, but they are always so vivid you "hear" as well as see them.

Brown's opening solo quickly rises in pitch. Braids and feet fly, hips swing, hands fan. She kicks up a chalk storm, her

...continued below...


arms the treble to the bass of her sneaker-clad feet. She's cat light even when driving like mad into the playground macadam.

Brown's intensity redoubles when Catherine Foster enters for the first of the dance's several duets. This one is all call-and-response: black-girl games taken to darting, Double Dutch virtuosic heights.

The girls grow up in the succeeding two duets. There's definitely a teen feeling--rivalry and bonding, preening and pouting--to the next duet, for Fana Fraser and Beatrice Capote. The last duet, for Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Mora-Amina Parker (whose role Brown will assume in Ann Arbor), feels more introspective and almost maternal. And then, dance language having had its say, it's time for actual talking: a post-show moderated dialogue that's part of each performance.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers perform Black Girl Saturday, February 13, at the Power Center, courtesy of UMS, but that's not the only chance to appreciate Brown this month. The U-M dance department's annual Power Center concert (see 4 Thursday listing) includes her more abstract 2010 City of Rain, compelling for its urgency, beauty, and complexity of pattern.     (end of article)

[Originally published in February, 2016.]

 

 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Subscribe to the Ann Arbor Observer
Nightspots: Earle
Kerrytown's Loomi Cafe
Quick Bite
M.B. Lewis
Giving Circles
Twice a year, more than 200 women gather at the Kensington Hotel, checkbooks in hand.
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
"We unfortunately needed to end our journey."
The Quarter Bistro Closes
Sabine Bickford
Crime Map
A clickable, zoomable map
Year-round Holidays
Themed trees and more on W. Stadium
Anita LeBlanc
Vietnam Tribute
"We're just trying to keep all these men alive," John Kinzinger says.
Jan Schlain
Restoring a Community Icon
How Chelsea's post office got a new lease on life.
Kathy J. Clark
Lake Cruises
"I didn't know cruise ships stopped at Mackinac Island," an Ann Arborite said.
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
One of the finest university art museums in the country, UMMA holds collections representing 150 yea
First Church of Christian Science event
Vicki's Wash and Wear Haircuts