First up, I will need to admit that I am not by any means qualified as a critic of dance, so have the proverbial “grain of salt” handy. The subtitle of N.C. State LIVE’s Feb. 25th presentation of Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play created an expectation in me of a something a bit different, something that would be somehow more like an actual play and would involve the spoken word. And, having spent four of my formative years in West Africa, the idea of watching dance created in a tradition descendent from that of the Yoruba, the Igbo, the Hausa, the Fulani, or the Tiv intrigued me.
All of that said; let me begin by saying that I witnessed some high-energy, tightly choreographed moves, performed by a team of well-trained and highly talented dancers. The production was directed and choreographed by Camille Brown. She was joined on the dance floor by Beatrice Capote, Chloe Davis, Teneise Mitchell Ellis, and Catherine Foster — all very much in control of their art. In addition, I was treated to original music that I would not have heard under any other circumstances.
The performance began with a subdued upstage-right spotlight brought up on electric bassist Tracy Wormworth, playing a throbbing melody. Wormworth was soon joined by pianist Scott Patterson, and the light widened to include him. This duo accompanied the ensuing dance with original tunes, some composed by Wormworth, some by Scott, and some by a collaboration of the two. Having formed my musical tastes in the 1960s and early 1970s, I found the more bluesy and/or jazzy numbers the most pleasing; but all of the numbers were good and well-performed.
As the stage lighting came up, I noticed several platforms on the stage. The upstage-left platform was backed by a backdrop that reminded me of urban graffiti art. There was a single dancer on that platform. She performed several solo routines that involved moving to other platforms on the stage and was then joined by a second dancer. They performed a series of routines together — some synchronized, some complementary. Interspersed among these were a few short solos by the second dancer.
This pair was followed by a second duo and then a third (which included one of the originals). And there was a final number that included all five dancers onstage.
All five dancers performed with crisp, clean moves. The synchronized numbers were performed with pinpoint accuracy, and the complementary numbers were all in time.
Several of the movements conjured up images (for me) of young women going through the paces of “coming of age” in their societies. Some sequences were obviously meant to suggest playground activities. Others hinted at more involved relationships. The audience was quite appreciative, applauding after each duo left the stage, and clapping enthusiastically at the end of the show.
The show was interesting, and I am glad that I attended. I am, however, glad that it only lasted an hour.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 27th Raleigh, NC Technician (N.C. State University student newspaper) review by Alex Hornaday: http://www.technicianonline.com/features/article_22bf7f5e-fcb0-11e6-993c-6f4913c1e293.html; Feb. 24th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC/91.5 FM interview with choreographer and educator Camille A. Brown, conducted by Frank Stasio for “The State of Things”: http://wunc.org/post/new-dance-piece-highlights-how-black-girls-play; and Feb. 22nd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/camille-a-brown-and-dancers-black-girl-linguistic-play/Event?oid=5229896. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the March 9th Triangle Review review by Katy Koop, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/03/camille-a-browns-black-girl-linguistic-play-is-a-captivating-hour-of-dance-beats-and-chants/.)
Camille A. Brown & Dancers in BLACK GIRL: LINGUISTIC PLAY (N.C. State LIVE, Feb. 25 in Stewart Theatre in N.C. State University’s Talley Student Union in Raleigh).
BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (2014 African-American dance piece): http://www.camilleabrown.org/black-girl-linguistic-play/ (official web page).
Camille A. Brown & Dancers (New York City-based dance troupe): http://www.camilleabrown.org/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/camilleabrownanddancers (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/@CamilleABrown (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_A._Brown (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.