Choreographer Camille A. Brown is having a great year on top of a series of other great ones. As the founder of Camille A. Brown and Dancers Repertory she’s created engaging work with a political scope, in balance with her other theatrical choreography and her involvement with efforts like The Gathering, an annual event for black female artists in the contemporary dance world to further cultural fairness and recognition in their field. Brown will recieve the 2016 Jacob’s Pillow Award on June 18, later followed by a stint as a guest performer in Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards’ And Still You Must Swing during the summer festival.
What does it mean to you to be chosen as a Guggenheim Foundation fellow this year?
It’s absolutely incredible. To have the support of such a remarkable organization really means a lot. I am excited by the opportunity to have the resources to create my vision. Having resources gives you a certain amount of relief, but it also puts pressure on you. You don’t want to disappoint. People are investing in you. But the fact is, when you give your all, and your work comes from an honest and personal place, you can never disappoint because you are doing the very thing people believe you can do.
Your current project “ink” seems ambitious especially because of its historical scope. What was the conception of such a huge project?
I love that my pieces are known for being “ambitious”. I remember “Mr. TOL E. RAncE” being described the same way. There is a huge amount of responsibility when you are diving into history- especially when they are stories that have been either silenced, misunderstood, and/or taken. You are not only speaking for yourself, you are speaking for your ancestors. But it’s also a personal story too. “We are” because of a heritage. It’s really about honoring your heritage by doing the very thing generations before you have done- dive into your creative identity and tell your story.
“ink” is the final installation of the ‘identity’ trilogy Drawing on the history of social dance from Juba to game playing to hip hop and gestural work, CABD will embody rhythmic choreography that complicates the divide between dance, music, body, and instrument by exploring Hip-Hop as a musical form and cultural phenomenon. Riffing on the comic superhero trope, the dancers will anthropomorphize and examine Hip Hop through the lens of Black youth culture, and its influence on current political responses to socioeconomic injustice.
Do you see your theatrical work outside your company differing from what you do within your company?
There are differences, but my concert and theater work inform each other. I am creating narratives, working with collaborators, delving into an intense process, dissecting, and deconstructing in both worlds.
I have a shorter amount of time to put things together in theater, but in a fascinating way, it is the intensity of the theater process that has helped me to extend my creative process for work with my Company. “Ink” is the third piece that I have created for CABD in 4/5 yrs, and it won’t premiere until late 2017/early 2018. I am giving myself the chance to have a real process, and for my team to validate our work before we allow anyone else to. Sometimes choreographers are expected to create a work every year. You are running against a clock. I wouldn’t have been led to fight against that pressure if it hadn’t been for my work in theater.
You are known for work that confronts stereotypes. Are there stereotypes of black women in the dance world that you feel need to be addressed?
I have created stories centered around politics, but I tell many stories. I think it’s about seeing the many facets of Black women in the dance world (seeing each of our voices and the complexities of each voice) and the spectrum of who we are, versus who people want us to be.
What prompted you to start The Gathering, and has it accomplished so far what you hoped it would?
I had been having conversations with Black female choreographers about the dance world and how we have to navigate through it as black women. I had also been hearing people say there aren’t that many Black female choreographers. We are out here and exist. I think this year’s season at Jacob’s Pillow is a representation of that.