Camille A. Brown is a consummate soloist. For the debut performance and the premiere of “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” at the Joyce Theater, Brown and her company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, played to mostly sold-out houses.
The first part of the program—movement and performance—lasts for approximately one hour. The second part, a requisite for Brown’s presentations, includes a dialogue with the performers and audiences, moderated by scholars on the subject and revealing the process that drives Brown to create works. Dr. Salamishah Tillet was the moderator for Saturday’s program.
In her dance-language and her ever-challenging venture toward discovery, Brown tells stories that inspire, and ultimately she offers a production that questions or brings to light cultural truths. Here, for instance in “BLACK GIRL,” “exhausted by stereotypes and tropes because, as a Black female director, [she] battle[s] with them daily,” games she played as a Black girl command the vocabulary. In three vignettes, as young Black girls, Brown with Catherine Foster, Beatrice Capote with Fana Fraser, and Yusha-Marie Sorzano with Mora-Amina Parker, play Double Dutch; Red Light, Green Light; and Marco Polo. They sing “Down, Down Baby” and “Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko Pop,” give a shout to the hip-hop girl group TLC and sing/play the African-American rhyming game Jig-a-low.
They chest bump, stomp, pound it out, pull earrings for a fight, threaten with an extended arm and palm high—“talk to the hand”—or resolve a fight. In their B-girl shorts, crop tops and squeaky sneakers, they are BFFs or siblings who dance and play, wafting easily through each movement memory. Sorzano and Parker create an especially tender relationship in a sumptuous duet that moves from platform to platform, settling only for a hair-braiding session or an embrace.
Composer-pianist Scott Patterson and composer-electric bassist Tracy Wormworth keep the moments fresh, while set designer Elizabeth C. Nelson’s many-sized platforms, cantilevered mirrors hung from the ceiling and colorful graffiti wall set the tone for Brown’s play.