By Walter Rutledge
Camille A. Brown and Dancers presented ink, February 5 through February 10,2019 at the Joyce Theater. The company of seven (Beatrice Capote, Timothy Edwards, Catherine Foster, Juel D. Lane, Yusha-Marie Sorzano, Maleek Washington and Brown) moved courageously with a spartan attack and focus intent. The extremely audience friendly 70 minute one-act abstract narrative dance theatre work is the third and final installment of her dance/theatre trilogy about identity; which includes Mr. TOL E. Rance (2012) and BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (2015).
Even before the work started Brown’s set the tone of the evening with a playfully urban pre-show announcement. The two male spokesmen informed us to turn off cellphones and prohibited recording with homeboy wit and humor; while reminding us where the exits were and if you got caught that’s where you’d be heading. In other words, “The Joyce don’t play dat”.
The lights revealed a four musicians; Juliette Jones, Allison Miller, Scott Patterson and Wilson Torres with Brown seated downstage right. If the announcement set the tone, then Brown immediately established the movement vocabulary and pace. Rounded shoulders combined straight arms in an odd four position with tense spread fingers became a signature shape for the work. Her sweeping gestures, animated face and engaged upper body was part Griot, part Conjure Woman. Connected to the percussion she reacted, interacted and at times led the drum as she purified/blessed the stage.
Yusha-Marie Sorzano and Maleek Washington followed in a duet that continued Brown’s gestural driven movement, this time peppered with stylized yesteryear social dancing. The section time travelled, harkening back to past experiences through stylized partnering, and then moving forward with more current and universal movement themes. Sorzano’s focused delivery added a humanistic quality to the duet and provided Washington an admirable foil.
The work continued as series of non-sequential vignettes each exploring a different theme including the female body, love, brotherhood and community. Brimming with kinetic energy and stunning imagery the work still retained cerebral elements; which challenged the audience to look beyond the stage. It also assisted choreographer/director Brown in creating a work that was as engaging as it was entertaining.
One of the memorable sections featured Maleek Washington and Timothy Edwards. The duet depicted two black men bonding with movement depicting competitive male bravura and comraderie. Staying true to her choreographic voice Brown molded vernacular dance with directed gestures and established technique into an individual movement statement. The athletic exchange ended with the two men on the floor contorting in pain. At one point Washington held his hands at his throat gasping for air evoking Eric Garner.
The work culminated with the only full ensemble section- Migration. A violinist entered from stage left with the performers and became the centerpiece of the section. The dancers formed a semi-circle open to the audience and took turns performing solos in the center. The section ended with the dancers jumping in unison as the light slowly faded to black. The satisfying conclusion was just another example of Brown’s well-crafted and thoughtful choreography and direction.
ink is a fitting conclusion for Brown’s seven-year exploration of the African Diaspora. It also functions as a barometer of Brown’s professional and personal artistic progression. Her talents as a storyteller, choreographer, director and performer have greatly benefitted from her continued need to examine, explore and create. ink culminates this portion of Brown’s choreographic and directorial exploration with great insight and flair.