BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play reveals the complexity of carving out a self-defined identity as a black female in urban American culture. In a society where black women are often only portrayed in terms of their strength, resiliency, or trauma, this work seeks to interrogate these narratives by representing a nuanced spectrum of black womanhood in a racially and politically charged world.



With original music compositions (live music by pianist, Scott Patterson and electric bassist, Tracy Wormworth), Brown uses the rhythmic play of African-American dance vernacular including social dancing, double dutch, steppin’, tap, Juba, ring shout, and gesture as the black woman’s domain to evoke childhood memories of self-discovery . From play to protest the performers come into their identities, from childhood innocence to girlhood awareness to maturity—all the while shaped by their environments, the bonds of sisterhood, and society at large.

Each performance culminates with “The Dialogue.”*

*Since 2012, “The Dialogue” has become a signature of Camille A. Brown & Dancers performance experience that provides an opportunity for open discussion between the artists and audience about the work of The Company. Facilitated by a scholar or collaborator, it is a verbal extension of the work that creates a safe space for artists and audience members to decompress together- exchanging immediate thoughts and reactions.

In 2015, we were honored to have “The Dialogue” moderated by Aimee Cox or Theresa Ruth Howard

“…clever and tender…Ms. Brown, in other words, has put the black girl on a pedestal.”

~ Gia Kourlas, The New York Times

“The Joyce Theater launched its new season last night with Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, arguably the best thing that has ever happened on, and to, the Joyce stage.”

~ Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Time Out New York

“.. it was the first time that I could see the beauty of my culture honored and respected, to see the artistry, the elegance, ingenuity… the “genius” in Black girl…Linguistic Play.”

~ Theresa Ruth Howard

“I was moved because I able to really connect with the characters in the piece. It brought me back to the days when I was growing up with games and ideas I haven’t thought of in years! I saw myself on the stage, which doesn’t happen often.”

~ Caryn Cooper

The creation and presentation of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play is supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead funding provided by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Community Connections Fund of the MetLife Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Major support for this new work also comes from the MAP Fund, primarily supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional funds from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Engaging Dance Audiences administered by Dance/USA and made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; a Jerome Foundation 50th Anniversary Grant; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; Harkness Foundation for Dance; and a 2014 New York City Center Choreography Fellowship.

This work was commissioned by DANCECleveland through a 2014 Joyce Award from the Joyce Foundation, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at The University of Maryland, Juniata Presents and Juniata College.  It was developed, in part, during a residency at Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, NY awarded through the Princess Grace Foundation–USA Works in Progress residency program; a creative residency at The Yard, The Flynn Center and the Wesleyan Center for the Arts; a technical residency at Juniata College in Huntington, PA; a residency at New York City Center; and a residency at Newcomb Dance Program, Tulane University Department of Theatre and Dance.

Choreographer’s Note

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play celebrates the unspoken rhythm and language that Black girls have through Double Dutch, social dances, and hand-clapping games that are contemporary and ancestral. As I began to create the work, I realized that I was exhausted by stereotypes and tropes because, as a Black female director, I battle with them daily.Kyra Gaunt’s book, The Games Black Girls Play, inspired the concept for the work. The word “play” immediately shot out. I started thinking about my childhood and the many games I used to play—Double Dutch, Red light, Green light, Marco Polo—and how it was hard for me to find narratives within the media that showcased Black girls being just that: girls. This instantly resonated and became personal. Who was I before the world defined me? What are the unspoken languages within Black girl culture that are multi-dimensional and have been appropriated and compartmentalized by others? What are the dimensions of Black girl joy that cannot be boxed into a smile or a grimace, but demonstrated in a head tilt, lip smack, hand gesture, and more?

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play showcases and elevates the rhythms and gestures of childhood play, highlights the musical complexity and composition, and claims them as art. It shows the power of sisterhood and the fact that, as we mature, Black girls still play. It is remembering, conjuring, honoring, and healing. It’s a Black girl’s story through her gaze. This work is a gift to myself and Black girls everywhere.

If our audiences see parts of themselves in our work—their struggles and their joys—regardless of their color, gender, or socioeconomic background, then I know we have done our job.

Let’s play!

Camille A. Brown

Reference & Resource Guide PDF


BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play Reference and Resource Guide

Other Resources and References: 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, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and Daniel Silberberg’s Wonderland: The Zen of Alice.


THERESA RUTH HOWARD is a former member of the Dance Theater of Harlem, and Armitage Gone! Dance. She has been a member of the Ballet Faculty at the Ailey School for over 13 years and has taught and choreographed internationally in conservatories, universities, dance festivals, and intensives. As a writer she has contributed to the Source and Pointe, Expressions (Italy), and Tanz (Germany) Magazines, as well as being a contributing writer for Dance Magazine where she collaborated with Editor in Chief Wendy Perron in See and Say Web-reviews. Her articles about body image prompted her to develop the My Body My Image workshop and blog which gives young adults the tools to create a healthier sense of self through principals of: Respect, Acceptance and Appreciation for themselves and their bodies. Her latest project is, which will work to present and preserve the Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet through video profiles and archival information. She has been a mentor for many of the young men and women that she has taught over the years, her motto is: “The only way to make the world a better place, is to be better people in it!”

AIMEE MEREDITH COX is a cultural anthropologist and tenured professor of African and African American Studies at Fordham University. Dr. Cox’s first book is Shapeshifters: Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship (Duke University Press, 2015). She is on the editorial board of The Feminist Wire, on the founding editorial board of Public: A Journal of Imagining America, and is the former co-editor of Transforming Anthropology, the peer-reviewed journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists. Dr. Cox is a former professional dancer. She trained on scholarship with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and was a member of Ailey II/The Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble. She is also the founder of the BlackLight Project a young woman of color-led performance activist project that operates in Detroit, MI and Newark, NJ.

Creative Team

Composers: Scott Patterson (pianist) & Tracy Wormworth (electric bassist)

Dramaturgs: Daniel Banks, Kamilah Forbes and Talvin Wilks

Lighting Design: Burke Wilmore

Sound Designer: Sam Crawford

Set Design: Elizabeth C. Nelson

Costume Design Contributors: Zulema Griffin, Carolyn Meckha Cherry, Mayte Natalio and Catherine Foster

Cultural Anthropologist: Aimee Cox

Tap Coaches: Shaune Johnson and Marshall Davis


“…clever and tender…Ms. Brown, in other words, has put the black girl on a pedestal.”
Read Full Article
-Gia Kourlas, The New York Times

“The Joyce Theater launched its new season last night with Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, arguably the best thing that has ever happened on, and to, the Joyce stage.”
Read Full Article
-Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Time Out New York

“BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play…is what it feels like to have yourself handed back to you, to be honored with the gift of your contradictory, hard won, still in process, beautifully flawed, inimitable self.”
Read Full Article
-Aimee M. Cox, The Feminist Wire

“…it was the first time that I could see the beauty of my culture honored and respected, to see the artistry, the elegance, ingenuity… the ‘genius’ in Black girl…Linguistic Play.”
Read Full Article
-Theresa Ruth Howard, My Body My Image

“If Black Girl’s power comes from its specificity, its nostalgia comes from its universality.”
Read Full Article
-Lauren Wingenroth, DanceTabs

“…one of the most powerful representations of Black girlhood I have ever witnessed. Brown created a moving masterpiece that was a narrative of Black adolescence never conceptualized before.”
Read Full Article
-Christina Greer, PH.D, Amsterdam News

“It’s relevant, it’s honest, it’s vulnerable, and by the sheer number of audience members who not only remained in their seats for the following dialogue with the company, but also participated—it’s impactful.”
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-Jenny Thompson, Eye on the Arts

“…A dance declaration…”
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-Walter Rutledge, Out & About NYC Magazine

A word from David White, Artistic & Executive Director at The Yard
“This is powerful stuff, with dance as the hammer of affirmation, not of self but of sisterhood.”

“Camille Brown’s performance expanded the constraints of dance in a performance that held the attention of her audience through various mediums… epitomizes the reason why we need works like Brown’s. We do not live in a post-racial, post-gender society, and the scars left by our history continue to shape our thoughts.”
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-The Williams Record

“Black Girl might be dance in its most humanistic form: the embodiment and questioning of cultural norms that manifest in muscular holding, posture, gesture, and breath.”
Read Full Article
-Nicole Bindler, Thinking Dance

“I am in awe of Brown’s impeccable timing, of how her use of those moments of stillness, silence, and pause give me the opportunity to reflect.
This is why it was so brave. Not only was Brown opening up her work for anybody’s interpretation and critique, she was opening up her life. She was proving, to all in attendance, that #blacklivesmatter.”
Read Full Article
-Becca Weber, Thinking Dance

“…after seeing Camille A. Brown & Dancers, I now have a better grasp of what W. E. B. Dubois meant by “double-consciousness…the goal of the company is to “foster cultural and educational dialogues among audiences and local communities while instilling a sense of curiosity and appreciation,” I would say, mission accomplished”
Read Full Article
-Flynn Center Blog

“…we need to see more of these dances – every african/black/american dance move is not the same – it has nuance – and so does the enticing cb and her crew of unstoppable emotist extraordinaire – the physical insight was mind blowing”
-Lela Aisha, Flyground




Camille A. Brown & Dancers BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
By: Jo Tomalin
For All Events

‘Black Girl’ at Berkeley full of play and great dance
By: Allan Ulrich
SF Gate

Camille A. Brown & Dancers trip the childhood fantastic
By: Jaime Robles
Repeat Performances

Black Girlhood Through Black Girls’ Eyes: A Chat With Camille A. Brown
By: Carla Escoda

Dance fights stereotypes
By: Claudia Bauer
San Francisco Chronicle

Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play Has Bay-Area Premiere
By: Lou Fancher
San Francisco Classical Voice

Camille A. Brown & Dancers celebrate Black girlhood, social dance in upcoming performances
By: Katie O’Connor
The Daily Californian

Unleashing the Rhythms of Childhood – A world premiere from Camille A. Brown & Dancers at the Joyce Theater
By: Katherine Bergstrom
Point of Contact

Reflecting on the Black girl experience
By: Tony Fraser
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian

BWW Review: A Powerful Evening with CAMILLE A. BROWN & DANCERS
By: Caryn Cooper
BWW Dance World

Getting to See Camille A. Brown’s Opening Night at The Joyce
By: Rachel Rizzuto
Dance Teacher

DANCECleveland, collaborator are 2014 Joyce Awards recipients
By: Scott Suttell
Dance Cleveland




Audience Chalkboards


Dialogue at Jacob’s Pillow



Camille A. Brown


Camille A. Brown and Dancers Repertory


Camille A. Brown Theater Choreography


Engagement with Camille A. Brown