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Camille A. Brown and Dancers at the Joyce Theater

January 31, 2012
Camille A. Brown Photo by Christopher Duggan

Camille A. Brown Photo by Christopher Duggan

I was unsure as to what to expect from Camille A. Brown and Dancers at their performance at the Joyce this week-end. I must say what I got was much more than anything I could have anticipated. It was a thrilling evening of dance.

Opening the performance was Ms. Brown’s City of Rain (2010). Set against a back drop of blue sky and fluffy clouds I felt I was witness to the frolicking of angels amongst the cumulus. Ms. Brown’s choreography is made up of movement that is natural and intuitive. Nothing is forced and each movement blends and flows seamlessly in the next. Set to the music of Jonathon Melville Pratt with costumes by Carolyn Meckha Cherry and lighting by Burke Wilmore, City of Rain is a powerhouse of a work that is mesmerizing in its intensity.

MR TOL E. RAnce, Part 1 Photo by Christopher Duggan

MR TOL E. RAnce, Part 1 Photo by Christopher Duggan

Ms. Brown’s newest work is in collaboration with J. Michael Kinsey, and was quite interesting. MR TOL E. RAnce, Part 1 opens with short graphic cartoon by Isabela Dos Santos, in which a figure loses one body part after another on its journey upon the road of life and at the end, when it’s only the head, he is still disregarded and is kicked around like a soccer ball.  The work deals with issues of tolerance and the representation of Blacks in the media; it is a unique mix of history, social commentary, drama and dance. There are black minstrels with frozen smiles and jazz hands in white gloves, and a whole lot of dancing. Is the work successful, mostly, but this is an unfinished work, very new and apt to go through multiple incarnations as it matures. I look forward to seeing the piece in its totality.

MR TOL E. RAnce, Part 1 Photo by Christopher Duggan

MR TOL E. RAnce, Part 1 Photo by Christopher Duggan

Of particular note was Carmen deLavallade’s solo, a recreation of Geoffrey Holder’s 1972 work, The Creation, Plus 40. Based on a poem by James Weldon Johnston in which Ms. deLavallade tells the story of creation, but from God’s perspective. Grabbing our attention, she sits on stage in a bright red dress and holds the audience enthralled with every inflection and breathe, she begins with a wistful sigh and then states “I’m lonely. I’ll make me a world.” I was reminded of the story-teller, so prominent in many cultures. It was a brilliant performance of an important piece of dance history.

Been There, Done That  Photo by Christopher Duggan

Been There, Done That Photo by Christopher Duggan

Been There, Done That, which premiered at Jocob’s Pillow in 2010 is a 1930’s style duet. It is a joy, wonderfully interpretive and has brilliant mix of wit and humour. Ms. Brown performed with Juel D. Lane, dancing to the music by Nancy Wilson and New York Allstars, she brings social dance to a new level of exploration. Both are seemingly in competition with the other, but both trying not to seem obvious about it. Mr. Lane, lamenting he could have been performing in the Lion King, but Ms. Brown demanded he be here was great. He comments several times on Ms. Brown’s dancing, saying such as “I see somebody didn’t take (dance) class today”, and” I’m going to get you in touch with my ballet teacher so she can help you with that turn-out”. Though Ms. Brown’s uses dialogue several times in the piece, it was not always audible to those past the first five rows and that is my only negative criticism of the piece. Bravo and bravo again!

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