Camille A. Brown – Sadé Toombs

Camille A. Brown is all about social dance and activism. She talks about her movement coming from the community and gets a lot of her movement from styles of African Dance. Her choreography is all about freedom in the arms and freedom in the movements. She talks about how she will give the dancers steps and/or task when it comes to creating phrases. The dancers will then development movement in the rhythm that she gives but, she will throw a spin on their character development. For example she would say “ Do this phrase happy, sad, mad, somebody is fighting you and etc”. 

In the talk back she touches on the bases of her dances being told through the black experiences. She is very vulnerable when it comes to her dances and movement. Her dances speak for themselves rather than her trying to explain detail by detail, even though she could into that much debt. Being that she teaches social dance it gives a feel for all the communities to come together and just be one for a moment in time. Camille will turn the social dancing into learning about the history which I find amazing on how she merges everything together. Bringing the audience together is what we strive for Brother Gabriel remembrance/ performance coming up. I pray that it gives the Richmond community a feel of the story, the issues we are expressing and also a sense of understanding. 

The question I wanted to ask was, how do the dancers prepare their minds for each performance and how do you get through the performance with 10 different emotions in one dance? What are you focused on more.. the technique? the steps? the feeling? or the movement?

Learning with little words

My initial question: How does Camille deal with the difference between the cultures of the dancers and the cultures they’re representing, if they’re allowed to make decisions and grapple with the movement?

Camille A. Brown’s work is absolutely magnificent. Her various forms of expression makes for an interesting, compelling performance. I would characterize this work as a play tampering with the difficult. I can only imagine the amount of stumbling blocks and restrictions she possibly faced.

For one, Camille uses film, dance choreography, body language, verbal speech, and stepping in her piece. Using these elements calls for a vigilant audience, but behind the scenes, as she mentioned, it takes lots of time and preparation.

I particularly enjoy the social dancing that Brown works with and how it transforms to stage so beautifully. Her commitment to showcasing dances and movements of all time periods and styles, is fully present in her work. She takes you through a tour, more or less, and let’s you enjoy and celebrate them as well.

I’m not familiar with many dance companies, but in comparison to previous dances that I’ve seen, Camille’s style is very different. But, I admire that it is different and it causes the audience to appreciate her work in a different way. The constant rhythm changes, the tapping of the feet mixed with clapping, the bodily gestures, and the choice of words, all tie into this one grand performance. Leaving Camille’s piece meant leaving with knowledge. She incorporates a lot of educational material in her dancing, and does it so subtly that you don’t even notice you’ve just absorbed so much new information.

I can definitely see a connection between Brown’s work and what Free and MK are doing for our upcoming performance. Learning through dance is so powerful and necessary and can hit the target on many takeaways that words just cannot. The history and culture of African-Americans are far more complex then words can announce. When dance is included in this teaching style, the audience completely changes and the message, while similar, becomes so rich in other aspects that words simply don’t fulfill.

I’m glad that Brown has taken the unpopular route and chosen to work with social dance. I feel that it is very necessary and a style of art that we should all embrace. I look forward to seeing more pieces like this and exploring this in our performance as well.

My followup question: How can you find the perfect balance with all of the elements included? Do you just go with the right feeling?

Talking Through Movement

My preliminary questions to Camille were, what is your artistic process and how do you come up with the steps that you perform? After getting to hear Camille A. Brown speak and see her company perform this question became a little less foggy. In the discussion that took place in the library Camille was asked a similar question and responded by saying how she does a lot of talking with her dancers about the subject of the piece and then starts giving them movement. An element to Camille’s process that I found extremely interesting was when she said that she has her dancers do a phrase up to 12 different times so she can see which she likes best. What came across through her talk and the performance was that she wanted the performance to feel real. Every dancer had a personality and were working off each other on stage, this is something that I found unique to Camille.

Camille A. Brown’s work is social dance which embodies deep emotions and brings difficult subject matters in front of diverse audiences. Her stories are told through the black experience which is also educational for those of us who don’t experience that. She is unapologetic in her pieces which gives them a voice that other forms of communication don’t display. She uses movement as a language and sees her pieces often as a conversation which is new for me. The way she uses rhythm and voice in her pieces is very stylistic and is something not often brought into other styles of dance.

Another aspect that makes social dance so powerful, is that it teaches large diverse crowds about topics that are uncomfortable and otherwise hard to voice. It softens the blow while also being very impactful with a message that sticks with you after the performance. This is what I hope to bring to the Brother Gabriel performance. That we make the audience think about the underlying issues that have caused the lack of recognition to the burial ground and the history that rests within.

A question that came up for me during the performance was if the performance feels different to the dancers depending on the audience that is watching the performance?

Dare to Move

After studying the materials related to the works of Camille A. Brown, I was very much interested to know about how much impact has her work has on people who have witnessed it? What are the interpretations of people who have viewed her remarkable plays? I’m assuming that we would have a range of meanings that we synthesized from watching her performances with the dancers. Would people who do not experience “Blackness” or black experience relate to her work and experience the impact that she intended on them. Or would African American audience interpret her works as intended?

Camille’s work revolves mostly in depicting her personal experience as a black female through raw movements and voice. What I meant by raw here is, both elements are portrayed based on her personality which is shaped by her African American roots.

In portraying the authentic experience of the African American co0mmunity in her work, Camille has done a brilliant work in bringing up social issues that maybe most people in the country don’t dare to discuss. Her work allows people to “feel” what they might be scared to feel, “say” what they don’t dare to say and “admit” what they have been trying to deny. There are a lot of social injustice happening in the States and this is evident in what we can see for years that “Black Americans, and black men in particular, are overrepresented as perpetrators of crimes in U.S. news media” (Sun, 2019). Not only crimes, social injustice also covers other forms of discrimination such as in education and housing. Camille managed to get the essence of social injustice in the African American community and she protests to these according to what she does best – being unapologetic in her movements and choreographic form. When I witnessed her work last Friday, I was moved, educated and left the hall with a better understanding of the African American culture, identity and experience. Her work, simply educates everyone and to quote from Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

In relation to the work we are currently doing with MK and Free, I noticed that they have the same drive and passion. To be unapologetically truthful via movements and arts. There is no negativity that I could sense but, an intelligent use of one’s choreographic forms and experience to create change and to educate people. This kind of work requires a community to ensure its success and to leave an impactful experience to their cause.

References

Sun, E. (2018). The dangerous realization of crimes in U.S. news media. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/criminal-justice/news/2018/08/29/455313/dangerous-racialization-crime-u-s-news-media/

Camille and Social Justice

Camille A. Brown’s style is social dance. She first describes dance as a language and then social dance as an expression that emerges from a community. Her work uses traditional African movements and the social dances that came from them and uses them in her choreography. The style is not very technical such as ballet or other contemporary companies such as Alvin Ailey. The choreography that she produces allows the dancers more freedom with their movements than if they were performing a piece for most companies. Most companies and pieces developed contain certain techniques that the dancers have to do well. Camille A. Brown gives the steps that have rhythm and the rest is up to the individual to make it into their own. Another aspect of her movement quality is to make the movements more pedestrian like which also helps make it less technical. 

Another thing that she mentioned was that humans develop music and she likes to utilize and create a lot of rhythms. Camille A Brown said that Africans used dance as a language and it expresses their identity, so dancers should dance the movement in a way that is true to them. In a way, she is commemorating African traditions that created many social dances that have been white-washed over the years. Many of the social dances that become a trend, roots from black people. However, the majority of the dances are highlighted in the media and at social gatherings by white people. The dances have been appropriated and Camille A. Brown pays tribute to the dance’s origins. Similarly, Untold RVA shares stories that have been concealed by institutions and she brings light to its true history. 

My question to Camille A Brown is how did she fist get into social dance and how long did it take her to develop her craft to become noticed and successful? Also, was her movement quality and her choreography accepted at first or was their hesitation from the public? After watching the performance, my new question is: what first motivated Camille to stay true to her craft in social dance and when/how did she decided to advocate for black history through dance?

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