For five years now, Camille A. Brown had been processing a dance trilogy that aims to engage audiences beyond their seats. She dared to do more than showcase works about race, stereotypes or identity, and instead opened deep discussions about these issues at the moment audiences received each work. With her company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, she mined stereotypical norms about Black men in “Mr. TOL E. RAncE” (2013), and then in “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” (2015), the all-female cast played games and revered all that is the Black girl. The discussions after those iterations were moderated by named experts in the field. “ink” is the last in the series, and for “ink,” the dancers and musicians themselves led open-hearted discussions.
Brown, Beatrice Capote, Kendra “Vie Boheme” Dennard, Timothy Edwards, Catherine Foster, Juel D. Lane and Maleek Washington (dancers) and Allison Miller, Scott Patterson, Monique Brooks Roberts and Wilson R. Torres (musicians) are all in. Even more, inasmuch as this ensemble of professionals shifts from playful to worrying, they generate a singular through line in Brown’s docu-dance—they are everyday people. In fact, Brown charged each of them to process the pedestrian, the individual and relationships, and then take these movement interpretations to the stage. In six sections, they did just that.
Brown, the consummate soloist, was first. With a much too short gesture-driven solo atop a wooden crate, her limbs seemingly paint vibrant messages through the air, setting the tone for what’s to come.
In the only other solo, the very smooth Foster was next, donning a red cap, with her back to the audience at first, she glides across the space scrubbing the floor, waxes off a few rounds of hand bone with the musicians, and caresses her locks between all that.
Dennard and Washington’s serpentine conversation was next, “Yo, let me holla at ya,” Washington seemed to say while navigating a date with Dennard. Then there was Washington and Edwards’ tender duet as brothers going through real-life matters.
Capote and Lane, the last couple, offered up even more movement stories. The messages are many and minute, yet when we step back and dare to fold what happens beyond the stage into a Brown & Dancer’s evening, they seem to linger long after we leave. The commitment from the group is palpable and infectious.
To close, and maybe with the presumption of potentiality, everyone returned in a prolonged cypher until the lights dim, repeatedly clapping, jumping and reaching upward.
“ink” was presented in New Jersey at Peak Performances (Feb. 1-4) as part of the “season of works by women,” which began with Pam Tanowitz (October 2017) and will conclude with Inbal Oshman (April 2018).