Groundbreaking director and choreographer Camille A. Brown took centerstage at the February 2, 2023, installment of the series. A three-time Tony Award nominee, Brown is the artistic director of her own dance company and the first Black female director for The Metropolitan Opera.
Camille A. Brown and Dancers, fresh off a critically acclaimed season at The Joyce Theater and the Apollo, presented an excerpt of Brown’s ink, followed by a panel discussion led by Danni Gee, director of programming at The Joyce Theater.
✛ Program Information
“Turf” (excerpt from ink – 2017)
Directed and choreographed by Camille A. Brown in collaboration with the musicians and members of Camille A. Brown & Dancers
Performed by Eric Parra and William Roberson
Original Music by Allison Miller, music director, with Juliette Jones, Scott Patterson and Wilson R. Torres
Lighting and Set Design by David L. Arsenault
Costume Design by Mayte Natalio
Costume Supervision by Amy Page
Sound Design by Justin Ellington
Dramaturgy by Daniel Banks, Kamilah Forbes and Talvin Wilks
“I see Black people as superheroes because we keep rising.”
– from Question Bridge: Black Males in America
ink celebrates the rituals, gestural vocabulary and traditions that remain ingrained within the lineage of the African diaspora and reclaims African-American narratives by showcasing their authenticity. The work examines the culture of Black life that is often appropriated, rewritten, or silenced.
The lead commissioners for ink are Peak Performances at Montclair State University and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with support from the Lumberyard. ink also received co-commissioning support from ASU Gammage. The creation and presentation of ink was made possible by The New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the New York State Legislature; and the Howard Gilman Foundation. ink was given its original creative development residency by The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance in partnership with The Evelyn Sharp/CalArtsSummer Choreographic Residency. The development of ink was made possible, in part, by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University with support from the Princess Grace Foundation. The work was also created, in part, during a production residency at ASU Gammage, University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, 2017 Off-Shore Creation Residency at The Yard and creative residencies at Peak Performances at Montclair State University, Jacob’s Pillow and CUNY Dance Initiative at Kingsborough Community College.
✛ About Camille A. Brown & Dancers
Camille A. Brown & Dancers is a Bessie award-winning, NYC-based dance company that soars through history like a whirlwind. Recognized for blending modern, hip hop, African, tap and social dance to forge riveting works that ripple with energy, urgency and powerful theatricality, Camille A. Brown & Dancers reclaims Black narratives with historically informed and thought-provoking repertory on race, culture and identity.
The company has toured its repertory with live music to 72 cities in the US and internationally. Camille A. Brown & Dancers performs for 20,000+ people and serves 5,000+ engagement participants annually through free community programs that elevate African diaspora aesthetics.
In May 2020, Camille A. Brown & Dancers launched its Social Dance for Social Change virtual school, offering free online artist/scholar lectures by notable speakers and social dance classes, led by company dancers. To date, the virtual school has 95,000 participants and continues to grow.
Camille A. Brown & Dancers is delighted to return to touring and dancing for audiences in New York City and across the country again. Most recently, the company was thrilled to be presented in an historic two-week celebration of Brown’s Trilogy of dances on race, culture and identity at The Apollo and The Joyce Theater in New York City.
In January 2023, the company completed a creative residency at Jacob’s Pillow and looks forward to residencies in the spring and fall of 2023, along with touring through New England, the Midwest and California. The company’s new work is supported, in part, with lead commissioning funds from The Joyce Theater and additional commissioning support from the Apollo Theater and the Meany Center for the Arts at the University of Washington in Seattle. Camille A. Brown & Dancers’ 2022-2023 creative, performing and community engagement activities are supported, in part, by the Mellon Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Ford Foundation, The Howard Gilman Foundation, Grantmakers for Girls of Color, The Shubert Foundation, The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, the Princess Grace Foundation, the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Mosaic Network & Fund of the New York Community Trust, the Harkness Foundation for Dance and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.
✛ About Camille A. Brown
Camille A. Brown is a prolific Black female choreographer who brilliantly combines multiple genres to create a theatrical, filmic, pulsing experience that reclaims and elevates African-American cultural identity to new and important levels of presentation.
Brown made history as the first Black director of a mainstage production at The Metropolitan Opera for her work as co-director, with James Robinson, of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones. She received a 2022 Bessie Outstanding Choreographer nomination for her work.
With the 2022 Broadway revival of Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, she became the first Black female to direct and choreograph a Broadway show in over 65 years. The last being Katherine Dunham. She is also the first Black female to be nominated for a Tony Award as both director and choreographer of a play on Broadway. The production received seven Tony nominations and multiple award nominations from the Outer Critics Circle, the Drama League, Drama Desk and the Chita Rivera Awards.
Brown has received numerous honors for her powerful body of concert dance work created for her company. She is the recipient of the 2021 ISPA/International Society for the Performing Arts Distinguished Artist Award, a 2020 Dance Magazine Award and the 2020 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Choreography. She is a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow and a 2020 Emerson Fellow. She is the recipient of a Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, a Doris Duke Artist Award and a United States Artist Award. Brown is a five-time Princess Grace Award winner and a Bessie Award winner. Most recently she was named one of The Kennedy Center’s Next 50 artists.
Her work has been commissioned by renowned dance organizations such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Urban Bush Women and Complexions, to name a few. Her work, City of Rain, originally created on Camille A. Brown & Dancers in 2010, entered the repertory of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in December 2019. Brown has created 13 dances for her company, including the three evening-long works that comprise The Trilogy. On September 29, 2022, Brown premiered a new work, Journey I, II, III, created for her dancers to an original score by Wynton Marsalis, to celebrate the opening of the David R. Rockefeller Creative Arts Center.
Brown’s Broadway, Off-Broadway theater, opera, film and television choreography credits include: Tony Award-winning Broadway revival Once On This Island (Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Chita Rivera nominations), Toni Stone (Drama Desk, Lortel nominee), Emmy Award-winning Jesus Christ Superstar Live on NBC, Broadway’s A Streetcar Named Desire, The Fortress of Solitude (Lortel nomination), Much Ado About Nothing (broadcast live on PBS) for The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) and Tracy Oliver’s television series Harlem (Amazon Prime).
She is the choreographer of The Metropolitan Opera’s Porgy and Bess, the choreographer of The 1619 Project docuseries, the forthcoming Broadway production of Soul Train (directed by Kamilah Forbes) and the choreographer for the opera Champion by composer Terence Blanchard, which will have its Metropolitan Opera premiere this spring. Brown began her professional career as a dancer with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, a dance company from 2001-2007. She is a graduate of the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts and received a B.F.A. from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Brown is grateful for the incredible opportunities she has had in both concert and commercial dance and their mutual influence on her ability to create the works you are seeing this evening.
Eric Parra is a first-generation Colombian-American artist hailing from Union City, NJ. He graduated from Montclair State University with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance. Parra has danced for Limón Dance Company, Carolyn Dorfman Dance, Earl Mosley’s Diversity of Dance, Von Howard Project and Doug Elkins Choreography, among others. Television and dance film credits include Pose on FX; Easter at Crossroads by Crossroads Church; Unconquered by Earl Mosley; and The Winged by the Limón Dance Company, among others. Stage credits include Fire Shut Up in My Bones at The Metropolitan Opera and Awaited at the Arnoff Center for the Arts. Most recently, Parra served as a teaching artist for NJPAC, Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts and the José Limón Dance Foundation. This is Parra’s second season with Camille A. Brown & Dancers.
William Roberson, a native of Tennessee, graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance from Howard University in 2013. Through Howard, he’s been fortunate to work with Ronald K. Brown, Hope Boykin, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and many others. He met Camille A. Brown in college when she was a guest choreographer and has maintained his connection with her ever since. He’s been blessed to take part in Brown-choreographed productions such as Porgy and Bess atThe Metropolitan Opera and Shakespeare in the Park’s Much Ado About Nothin’. This is Roberson’s second season with Camille A. Brown & Dancers.
Danni Gee has over 37 years of experience in the arts and entertainment industry. She has performed as a principal dancer and soloist with both The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO!) and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. As a vocalist, she has appeared with Kathy Sledge of Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor, Cher and her own indie-rock band, Suga Bush.
In 2006, Gee became dance curator for City Parks Foundation SummerStage, one of New York City’s largest, free outdoor festivals. Last summer, she celebrated her 15th season by curating a roster that highlighted BIPOC women leaders in dance.
Along with providing performance and commissioning opportunities for many emerging and established choreographers and companies over the years, she also has presented several Notes of a Native Song featuring indie-rockers Stew and the Negro Problem; a 10th anniversary concert version of Fela! The Musical; the 20th anniversary of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam; and the 40th anniversary celebration of the hit Broadway show The Wiz.
Gee is also the host of the online series dannIGeeLive, which features conversations with artists and educators across disciplines and genres. Episodes are available dannigeetv.com.
In September 2022, Gee accepted the role of director of programming at The Joyce Theater in New York.
✛ About Chelsea Factory
Chelsea Factory exists to support artists and audiences as we collectively navigate beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. With an emphasis on support for New York City-based artists, Chelsea Factory provides highly subsidized creation and presentation space, production resources and dynamic connections that create transformative experiences for its partners across genres. Chelsea Factory was founded by Jim Herbert, founder and executive chairman of First Republic Bank, with significant support from the First Republic Foundation. chelseafactory.org.