CABD BGLP Beatrice Capote And Fana Fraser Photo By Christopher Duggan 06

Camille A. Brown & Dancers BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play

above – Pictured: Camille A. Brown & Dancers perform BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play Friday–Sunday, December 8–10, 2017 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (credit: Christopher Duggan)

Review by Jo Tomalin

Pictured: Camille A. Brown & Dancers perform BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
Friday–Sunday, December 8–10, 2017 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (credit: Christopher Duggan)

Camille A. Brown & Dancers presented their Bay Area premiere of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play at Zellerbach Playhouse December 8 – 10, 2017, produced by Cal Performances. This production is part of the “Berkeley RADICAL Joining Generations programming strand, which spotlights the work of four generations of trailblazing African-American choreographers whose creative output explicitly and intentionally addresses issues of history, race, and personal identity.”

In BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, New York based Camille A. Brown & Dancers celebrate the journey black girls experience as they grow up playing rhythmic games – traditional and handed down such as Double Dutch, Red Light/Green Light Marco Polo, tap, gesture and social dancing, often without words. The dance is complex expressivity extracted from these games and the look and sound is polished, free and raw.

Directed and choreographed by Camille A. Brown in collaboration with the women of CABD, the five performers (Beatrice Capote, Kendra ‘Vie Boheme’ Dennard, Catherine Foster, Mayte Natalio, and Camille A. Brown) take turns performing solos and duos, each conveying a different story that ranges from free joyful play to coming of age and sisterly quarrels.

The set is impactful and charming, with a very large chalkboard crammed full of colorful chalk drawings, several narrow platforms at different levels in front of the chalkboard and seven mirrors hung at angles above the stage (set design by Elizabeth C. Nelson) with dramatic lighting (lighting design by Burke Wilmore). Two musicians sit upstage right, Scott Patterson at the piano and Robin Bramlett on electric bass. They play beautiful original compositions by Patterson and Tracy Wormworth, that complement the dance and gestural storytelling perfectly. These fascinating music is full, sophisticated and sometimes pensive and restrained, which adds nuanced depth to the production. Other sounds heard are recorded voices of children chanting childhood games in the background and are very effective in their subtlety (sound design by San Crawford).

Pictured: Camille A. Brown & Dancers perform BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
Friday–Sunday, December 8–10, 2017 in the Zellerbach Playhouse. (credit: Christopher Duggan)

Camille A. Brown performs a brilliant solo at the beginning embodying the essence of childhood play performing motifs based on skipping, hand-clapping and rhythmic group games. She revels in stamping on chalk dust, which billows over her head as she goes into a tap dance with unique abstract movements. Wearing a baggy orange sweatshirt, frayed denim shorts and sneakers Brown moves adeptly along the platforms kicking up the chalk. She stomps and claps, turns and leaps with focus and attitude briefly flashing of a sly smile. The inspiration for this work is The Games Black Girls Play by Kyra Gaunt, which resonated with Brown as an empowerment to honor and heal through play at any age.

Another performer arrives and Brown sits on a step and watches, as if sitting on the doorstep of a home while her friend plays on the sidewalk. Next, they do a friendly fist bump, react to each other in fun, then they trip across the stage together with fast and nifty footwork and finger snaps. Their world is enlarged with the distant sounds of grown ups.

A second duo of two young girls growing up is clever, well performed and relatable. The fusion of emotive movement, gestures and the relationships of the two characters meld superbly into a wonderful scene with typical teenage competitiveness.

It is clear that this production delivers substance encompassing the experiences of black girls as they grow up through play. It is art, it is so very well imagined, created and performed – the joy from the performers is infectious and the bitter-sweet realities of life’s challenging times make this so very human.

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Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
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About the Author

Jo TomalinOriginally from England Jo Tomalin is currently based in San Francisco, where she reviews Theatre & Dance for www.ForAllEvents.com & www.FringeReview.com - she works in the performing arts as a freelance movement & voice specialist, director + actor. She is also Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance at San Francisco State University, teaching Movement for Actors, Voice for Actors, Storytelling, Business of Acting, Acting and directs MainStage plays. Jo's first play "Jessica" which she also directed was produced at the Fringe of Marin - a One Act New Play Festival. Jo Tomalin studied Classical Acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London; and holds a teacher's diploma (ATCL) in Voice and Acting from Trinity College of Dramatic Art, London. She studied Classical Ballet for 12 years; Graduated from London University's Laban Centre Teaching Credential program in Modern Dance, Art of Movement & Choreography; Completed the two year professional training course at the renowned acting school "Ecole Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq" Paris, France, where she also completed the Laboratoire du Mouvement (LEM) scenography and movement course. Jo also holds a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology from Boise State University and a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Instructional Design for Online Learning from Capella University, MN.View all posts by Jo Tomalin →