YoungArts Foundations’ 2019 Backyard Ball will announce Camille A. Brown as this year’s Arison Alumni Award winner for her contributions to the arts. Her choreographed performances center around perceptions and realities among different cultures. As a prolific African American female choreographer, her work strives to reclaim the cultural narrative of the African American identity. Brown gave us insight into what self-motivation techniques helped forward her career and passion—one being the motto shepasses along to her students during her teaching. Movement is her channel for giving back as she has provided outreach activities to students, young adults, and incarcerated women and men across the country. She explained such an award, “makes me feel seen and heard in the same way the YoungArts award did when I was 17. I have fallen many times, but this award reminds me that it’s about getting up and flying. It gives me the encouragement to keep going.”
How has culture influenced your creativity? In what ways have you interlaced your cultural narrative into your work? Culture has shaped my choreographic voice in a major way. Gestural information from the African Diaspora is rich and carries history, identity, time, space, spirit and expression. We carry the history of the African-American experience in our gestures, rhythm, social dances, music and art. They are language, spoken with the body, that lifts, inspires and empowers me, connecting me to our roots.
My cultural narrative is seen in all of my works and is a mixture of personal and universal themes. I am originally from Jamaica, Queens (New York), so for “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” I’m riffing off my childhood and what “play” was for me—playing double Dutch in the street, making up dance routines, hand clap games, etc. I always ask myself, “What would this ‘Queens girls’ do?”
Growing up who did you consider a role model? Debbie Allen is a huge inspiration. She does it all. Her body of work makes me believe that all things are possible.