September 29, 2015

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play preview notes

How she dances
patterns like a dust-heavy bee retracing

its travels in scale before the hive.  —Gregory Pardlo, “Double Dutch

Camille A. Brown & Dancers in "Second Line" photo by Christopher Duggan
 As a little girl I would watch my mom dance to popular music in the house, I kept asking, “how do you find the beat?  Can you teach me those steps? She said, “just keep listening to the sounds until your body moves with it.” She also decided to enroll me in local Saturday morning dance classes.  As I read through The Games Black Girls Play by Dr. Kyra Gaunt I felt a cadence with my early childhood experiences in dance, music and play. She states, “Every day black girls generate and pass on a unique repertoire of chants and embodied rhythms in their play that both reflects and inspires the prince of black popular music making.”   It is the power of play at its best where relationships, connections and friendships find roots.  

Set design by Elizabeth C. Nelson; Burke Wilmer, lighting design. 
Last week, I rushed to a downtown dance studio in Chelsea where I found choreographer Camille A. Brown sitting on a studio floor with her notebook open watching and talking dancers through preparation for their upcoming world premiere performance and national tour. BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (#BlackGirlLP) by Camille A. Brown & Dancers at The Joyce Theater, dancers also include Beatrice Capote, Timothy Edwards, Catherine Foster, Fana Fraser, Juel D. Lane, Mora-Amina Parker, Willie “Tre” Smith III and Yusha-Marie Sorzano.  There are solid musical vibes composed by electric bassist Tracy Wormworth and pianist Scott Patterson.

#BlackGirlLP is a collective, collaborative, creative force of energy in dance and music — where the games African American girls still play takes center stage in contemporary form. 

#BlackGirlLP uses the rhythmic play of African-American dance vernacular - including social dancing, double dutch, steppin’, tap, Juba, ring shout, and gesture - as the black woman’s domain to evoke childhood memories of self-discovery.”  —Camille A, Brown

As I sat there in The Joyce Theater I remembered my Saturday mornings in dance class where for the first half hour our group would sit down on the dance floor with legs folded, heads up, dressed in our required black leotards and tights with composition notebooks.  We learned to pronounce, spell and memorize the names of positions to be practiced for the day, but interpretative dance was our last session — a time of African drums and other rhythms to move through improvisational playful moves. My first dance lessons involved visual cues and listening for sound rhythms. It was my first kinesthetic learning lab experience.  It was also another kind of playtime.  

 #BlackGirlLP pulls at the power of play with dance to move us beyond and with language. There is also a reference guide in the program and online. Black Girl: Linguistic Play will also move through a national tour. I hope you are moved to see an upcoming #BlackGirlLP performance, listen to the music as well as read up for self-discovery and your enjoyment.  


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