Camille A. Brown
CAMILLE A. BROWN (originally from Queens, New York) is a prolific choreographer who has achieved multiple accolades and awards for her daring works. Informed by her music background as a clarinetist, she utilizes musical composition as storytelling and makes a personal claim on history through the lens of a modern Black female perspective. She leads her dancers through excavations of ancestral stories, both timeless and traditional, that illustrate stories which connect history with contemporary culture. Her versatility is effortlessly demonstrated in works that range from light-hearted (“Groove to Nobody’s Business”; “Been There, Done That”) to spiritually based (“New Second Line”; “City of Rain”) and politically charged with comedic flare (“Mr. TOL E. RAncE”) to personal (“BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play”).
She is a four time Princess Grace Award winner (2016 Statue Award, 2016 Choreographic Mentorship Co-Commission Award, 2013 Works in Progress Residency Award, 2006 Choreography Award), 2017 Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, 2017 Audelco Award recipient, 2017 Irma P. Hall Black Theater Award nominee, 2016 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award recipient, a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, and most recently received a 2016 Bessie nomination for “Outstanding Production” for, “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play.” Ms. Brown is a 2015 USA Jay Franke & David Herro Fellow, 2015 TED Fellow, 2015 Doris Duke Artist Award recipient, and was nominated for the 2015 Lucille Lortel “Outstanding Choreographer” Award (Fortress of Solitude). She is a three-time recipient of NEFA’s National Dance Project: Production Grant, 2015 MAP Fund Grantee, 2015 Engaging Dance Audiences Grant recipient, the 2014 Joyce Award with DANCECleveland, a Jerome Foundation 50th Anniversary Grant, and a 2014 New York City Center Choreography Fellow. Her company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, received a 2014 Bessie Award for Outstanding Production for the work “Mr. TOL E. RAncE.” She also received The International Association of Blacks in Dance Founders Award (2013), the Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award (Wesleyan University), and the City College of New York Women & Culture Award (2012).
Ms. Brown’s work has been commissioned by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco!, Complexions, and Urban Bush Women, among others. Her theater credits as Choreographer include: Once On This Island (Broadway Revival), A Streetcar Named Desire (Broadway), Fortress of Solitude (The Public Theater), Stagger Lee (DTC), BELLA: An American Tall Tale (DTC, Playwrights Horizons), Katori Hall’s BLOOD QUILT (Arena Stage), Cabin in the Sky (NY City Center Encores!), Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM! starring Lin-Manuel Miranda (NY City Center Encores! Off-Center), Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (Regional), and Marcus Gardley’s The BOX: A Black Comedy.
From 2001-2007, Ms. Brown was a member of Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence, A Dance Company, and was a guest artist with Rennie Harris’ Puremovement, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (2008 and 2011). She has commissioned works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (2), Philadanco!, Urban Bush Women, Complexions, Ailey II, Ballet Memphis, and Hubbard Street II, among others. In the summer of 2016, Ms. Brown performed as a guest artist in the world premiere of And Still You Must Swing with tap artists Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Derick K. Grant, and Jason Samuels Smith at Jacob’s Pillow.
She is Artistic Director of Camille A. Brown & Dancers which strives to instill cultural curiosity, introspection and reflection in its audiences by providing outreach activities to students, young adults, and incarcerated women and men from local communities across the country. In 2014, Ms. Brown founded two initiatives: The Gathering, an annual open forum for intergenerational Black female artists to advocate for greater cultural equity and acknowledgement in the dance world; and BLACK GIRL SPECTRUM (BGS), a multi-faceted community engagement initiative that seeks to amplify the cultural and creative empowerment of Black girls and women through dance, dialogue, and popular education tools. On June 4, 2016, BGS will have its inaugural symposium with the theme “Social Dance for Social Change” at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre in Harlem, NY. In 2017, she will begin to expand the mission of BGS by launching two more initiatives – one focusing on young black men/ adults through gesture, step, and social dance, and the other connecting with homeless shelters across the country.
Ms. Brown has been featured on the cover of Dance Teacher Magazine (August 2015) and Co-Directed the Social Dances: Jazz to Hip-Hop program with Moncell Durden at The Jacob’s Pillow School. She has performed at the 2015 TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada and given talks at both TEDxBeaconStreet and TEDx Estée Lauder Companies. Ms. Brown’s TED-Ed talk A Visual History of Social Dance in 25 Moves was chosen as one of the most notable talks of 2016 by TED Curator, Chris Anderson, and has over 15 million views on Facebook and counting.
Ms. Brown’s newest work, “ink,” had its World Premiere at The John F. Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts and is the final installation of the company’s dance theatre trilogy about culture, race and identity following the Bessie Award Winning, Mr. TOL E. RAncE (2012) and Bessie Nominated, BLACK GIRL:Linguistic Play (2015). Drawing on historic and contemporary rhythms, rituals, and gestural vocabulary of the African Diaspora, and the comic superhero trope prevalent in heroic American folklore, “ink” reclaims African-Americans narratives by showcasing their authenticity. Through self-empowerment, Black love, brotherhood, exhaustion and resilience, community and fellowship, “ink” depicts the pedestrian interactions of individuals and relationships as grounds for accessing one’s innate super powers and finding liberation.
Ms. Brown is a graduate of the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts and received a B.F.A. from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
As a choreographer, I am interested in that space between dance and theater where interdisciplinary work defies category and takes flight. Music and rhythm are the main driving forces of my work. Informed by my music background as a clarinetist, I create choreography that utilizes musical composition as storytelling. I am interested in telling stories – historical and personally based – and am fascinated with tying history to my personal experiences and bringing those things to life.
By creating a vocabulary that fuses African, Hip- Hop, Jazz, Modern, Tap, Ballet, Theater, original music compositions and African-American social dances, my work often provides a platform to educate people about their origins while also exploring universal themes through movement. My company and I aim to present authentic performances that foster cultural and educational dialogues among audiences and local communities while instilling a sense of curiosity and appreciation for the live arts experience in a social and aesthetic context. We strive to build young and scholarly advocates who will help build appreciation for the field of contemporary dance within communities of color and develop our sphere of influence for cultural dialogue and reflection. Through our work we seek to speak to people, make them feel good, provoke, engage, and inspire.
QUOTES ABOUT CAMILLE A. BROWN
“Camille A. Brown held forth with deliciously acrobatic and deeply felt solos and as a responsive partner to Smith and Grant, both individually and together. There was knowing irony and humor in her flirtations, rejections, come-ons, and send-ups of men who’ve crossed her path, and an ineffable and affecting yearning in her quiet moments, including in her important role as an observing witness. In her gloriously sexy physicality, in jumps, arches, and courageous postural exhortations, up to prancing, and down to showing off her exquisite bottom half, this petite dancer mixed athleticism and sensuousness into an amazing personal brew. She was WOMAN, the un-Kardashian, the un-Helen Gurley Brown.”
-The Berkshire Eagle
“Ms. Brown is an assured performer…magisterial.”
-The New York Times
“Watching Camille A. Brown dance in person for the first time is like observing a hummingbird in nature for the first time…Brown is a storyteller, with many tales to tell”
-The Boston Globe
“Camille A. Brown is a student of history and a raconteur. Her dances tell stories of historical moments and of ordinary lives in a particular place in time…the effect is both dynamic and eloquent…the emergence of this extraordinarily talented young choreographer at this difficult time is cause for celebration indeed.”
-The Winsted Journal
“Brown herself is a vibrant performer—believable whether she’s walking in a squat or standing balanced on one leg and unfurling the other with a beautifully pointed foot. She’s a mistress of the melting gesture that’s betrayed by a storm of little staccato ones.”
-The Village Voice
“Gutsy. Wild. Smart. Original…Camille [A.] Brown has expert comic timing that’s Broadway-worthy.”
“..impressive is the message of empowerment that streams from the stage with every work the petite Camille A. Brown puts out. Brown takes the high ground and claims it for pride, spirit, and the sheer git to survive.”
-The Berkshire Eagle
“Brown creates intriguing, dense patterns with very physical movement that seems to define the comfortable limits of what today’s performers should be capable of doing. And which they clearly relish doing.”
“Brown’s combination of dance styles, precision and fluidity, and remarkable musicality were enthralling.”
“…her personal physical style, with all its focused bursts of energy and frozen positions that explode into motion, colors her group works…she uses this stop-and-go dynamic to continuously change the configurations of synchronized group movement to sophisticated effect.”
-The New York Times
“Camille A. Brown…grabbed the audience from the moment she stepped onto the stage…One could only describe her as simply breathtaking.”
-Pittsburgh Dance Examiner
“When you spend the evening with Camille A. Brown, you leave feeling that you are one of her closest friends. The effect boggles me. Brown’s compositions seduce you into their center, as if you stumbled into the middle of a complex family history or an intimate conversation you were not fully prepared for. Brown is an honest mover, who carries in her dancing body her own journey, which means she bears all. She hides no idiosyncrasies, but rather delves into her uniqueness to find its source.”
“Camille opens the eyes and ears of the audience as she vividly reads us a story about her grandmother through dance. Bravo Camille for a beautiful performance and for waking up the spirit of your grandmother on stage.”
“The incomparable Camille A. Brown…lots of tiny, vivid treasures, specific, focused movements danced with frightening control and pieced together like letters tapped out on a keyboard.”
-Eva Yaa Asantewaa (Infinitebody)