Dance Magazine Award Honoree: Camille A. Brown
Although Camille A. Brown has been well praised by fans, colleagues and critics, although the sheer number of awards, commissions and other honors she has received over the past two decades is exceptionally high, she remains one of those successful artists with no time for ego. She’s not driven by it. Rather—as performer, maker, educator and advocate—she’s motivated to highlight the complex histories and lived experiences of people of the Black diaspora and to celebrate, especially, our outstanding creativity in music and dance.
For many, awareness of Brown’s brilliance goes back as far as her early days with Evidence, the renowned company of Ronald K. Brown. (The two artists share a surname but are not related.) In a troupe full of luminaries—each dancer steeped in Ron’s musical sensitivity and spiritual passion—this dazzler caught every eye. Then, as now, she exuded belief in the power of her expressivity and her independence as a Black woman.
Clearly, Brown would step out on her own and make her mark as a choreographer and company director. But no one could have anticipated how handily her work would conquer not only concert dance stages but also Broadway and off-Broadway theater, opera, network television and now the world of Netflix. From Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco and Urban Bush Women to Shakespeare in the Park and The Metropolitan Opera, Brown’s choreography—at once rigorous in research and execution, accessible, socially aware and deliciously appealing—has made this modest artist into the go-to dancemaker of her era.
If dance is the poetry of the body, Brown not only takes a line for a walk, she extends it backwards, forwards and 360 degrees in space, articulating every level, every dimension, every rhythm, responsive to the holy moment like jazz improv, church and Mardi Gras. She is a griot of dance, carrying the lore of how dance urges humans towards freedom, celebration and unity. She even illustrates this in her 2016 TED Talk, a capsule history of African-American social dances, arguably the most influential dances worldwide.
Without a doubt, if any artist can finally persuade America of dance’s essential value, it will be Camille A. Brown.
So, what’s left? We will soon need to cook up another medium or venue for Brown to tackle. A site-specific gig at the International Space Station might do the trick. For sure, she’ll find a way to excel!
Dance Magazine in celebrating Camille A. Brown at the December 7 virtual Dance Magazine Awards ceremony. Tickets are now available here.