And the Award Goes To…
Choreographer Camille A. Brown’s socially conscious work has resulted in major recognition
Fana Fraser and Beatrice Capote in Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Camille A. Brown.
Camille A. Brown has always been an artist whose work is based on truth telling—about African-American culture, about racism past and present and how those issues intersect with being a woman. Now, Brown’s Black Girl Spectrum initiative, in which she spearheads workshops talking about these issues, and her newest major work, BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, have earned Brown critical acclaim and a slew of accolades.
In the spring, Brown was the recipient of three major awards—the Jacob’s Pillow Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Princess Grace Statue Award.
For Brown, these most recent honors, in addition to another set of prestigious awards in 2015, including a Doris Duke Artist Award, are much appreciated icing on the cake. But Brown says she doesn’t necessarily see these awards as validation.
“I’m just doing me. You have to just speak from your heart and do what you’re doing,” Brown says. “There are so many people out there who tell you what you can and cannot do: ‘You have to be just this. You can’t do this. Don’t do it this way.’ So I feel that this is really about people supporting and encouraging me.”
When asked why she believes she is receiving so many accolades in such a short time, Brown points to the relevance and timeliness of the issues she’s been raising in her work. “I think people are maybe hearing me now or maybe listening more,” she says. “Now that I have this acknowledgement behind me, I can say it even louder. I can say it in different arenas.”
Her upcoming projects include a TED-Ed lesson and a new dance work called ink that will be shown as a work in progress this season. She will also be exploring the possibility of turning BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play into a theater piece. “I feel like my work in musical theater has been where I’ve learned about being a choreographer the most,” she says. “I want to figure out what BLACK GIRL would look like outside of the concert dance world.”
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.