Dance

Multistyled Choreographer Camille A. Brown Makes Miami Debut With Black Girl: Linguistic Play

New York-based choreographer Camille A. Brown is known for her wide embrace of many dance forms, from African to tap to street styles. Part of the 2016 MDC Live Arts performance program, Brown will make her Miami debut at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium this Saturday. Her project, Black Girl: Linguistic Play, promises to be an explosive and entertaining expression of her versatility.

She began her professional dance career as a performer with Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence, A Dance Company, and made guest appearances in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Rennie Harris’ Pure Movement. She has since gone on to a prolific and award-winning career as an accomplished performer and choreographer in her own right.

As is typical for Brown, Black Girl: Linguistic Play uses dance, movement, and music to communicate a narrative of personal experience. In this new work, she draws heavily on dance as a social formation, employing call-and-response, double-dutch, stepping, juba, ring shout, and other forms.

Many of the dance forms are rooted in African slave traditions. Juba, for example, is a predecessor to tap. It comes from West Africa at a time when drums were outlawed by fearful slave owners. The body was used as an instrument and became, like the forbidden talking drums, a form of communication.

Ring shout is historically a religious dance brought to the United States and West Indies by African slaves. A group of participants stomps and claps in a circular formation, a practice that later made its way into 20th-century African-American churches. Stepping is a more recent percussive dance seen in schoolyards and African-American fraternities and sororities as a group ritual.

Famed African-American choreographer Alvin Ailey once said, “Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” In keeping with Ailey’s sentiment, the dances in Black Girl: Linguistic Play are transmitters of personal history and group identity. Brown uses them to tell stories of her childhood in black urban America. Her intention is a nuanced portrait, expanding beyond the struggle and trauma often dominating representations of blackness.

Due to the rhythmic movement, the whole is in large part musical. The piece is backed by live music from pianist Scott Patterson and electric bassist Tracy Wormworth, lending a jazz personality. Expect an exchange between performers and audience to complete the show.

— Catherine Hollingsworth, artburstmiami.com

Camille A. Brown’s Black Girl: Linguistic Play
Presented by MDC Live Arts. 8 p.m. Saturday, February 20, at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami. Tickets cost $25; Miami Dade College students pay $10. Call 305-237-3010 or visit mdclivearts.org.
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