How Yeman Brown Honors the Legacy of Black Dancers Onstage in Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’

April 17, 2023

Many artists inspired me growing up. I remember watching Michael Jackson perform “Billie Jean” at “Motown 25.” My cousin Chris and I were obsessed with Michael and idolized him. I also love Rena Butler! I first saw her perform with Kyle Abraham while I was at Florida State. She was the only woman in the cast. I will forever be inspired by her grace, strength and stage presence.

Having incredible artists to look up to has had a huge impact on my career; however, being a dancer hasn’t always been an easy choice. Pursuing dance professionally has innate challenges beyond those that occur onstage; especially pay, especially at first. There were times where I didn’t know how I was going to pay for my next meal and still had to be ready to perform with a “can-do” attitude.

Like many, I had self-doubts. I questioned if I really wanted to pursue a career in this space but knew deep down that I wouldn’t be fulfilled by anything else. I remained determined. I’m continuously cultivating a practice of showing up, doing my best and trusting that I am enough.

I’m currently in the Broadway cast of Bob Fosse’s DANCIN’, and getting to expe­rience the role of The Poet/Spirit in “Mr. Bojangles” has been such a blessing for me. It’s a moment where I get to hold space and acknowledge the legacy of Black dancers that paved the way for my peers and me. It feels like I’m channeling their energy and sharing it with an entirely new generation of audiences.

The casts I’ve been lucky enough to work with have always been exceptional, and working with incredibly talented peers makes every aspect of a performance better, even those I’ve performed hundreds of times. I love seeing excellence—like watching the Olympics, there’s an incredible energy in live performance that, when combined with compelling material, is magical.

I believe that “how you do anything, is how you do everything,” and it has been a guiding principle for me both on- and offstage. I want to do my best, both as a dancer and in my personal life. For me, dance is spiritual. The moment when the performers and collaborators come together and tell a story is a precious and fleeting moment that will never happen the same way again.