“Black Girl: Linguistic Play” Highlights Diversity and Nuance in Black Womanhood

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Bold and powerful, Camille A. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play challenges audiences to rethink the life of a black female through original music and varying dances.

Alongside collaborating dancers, Brown’s choreographed and rhythmic play uses the styles of social dancing, double dutch, ring shout, tap and juba to celebrate black womanhood and sisterhood.

Last week, a crowded audience at University Theatre on York Street was lucky enough to witness the award-winning choreographer’s performance as a part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

Ahead of the show, guests gathered for “Cocktails + Community Conversations,” hosted by Comcast, to celebrate themes of inclusion and diversity present throughout the performance and the festival at large.

Dan Glanville, vice president of government, regulatory and community affairs for Comcast’s Western New England region, and other company representatives welcomed constituents, including Gateway Community College president Dorsey Kendrick and other school representatives, to network and enjoy light fare in a floor beneath the heralded theatre.

Additional guests included New Haven Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Stephanie Barnes, United Way of Greater New Haven CEO Jennifer Heath and Urban League of Southern CT President and CEO Valarie Shultz-Wilson.

Glanville thanked them for their loyal partnerships with Comcast and continued support of the festival and everything it represents.

After the reception, guests made their way up to the University Theatre, which also serves as the Yale School of Drama’s center stage. The historic building also houses offices, classrooms and costume shops.

With original music from pianist Scott Patterson and electric bassist Tracy Wormworth, the performance disrupts misconceptions of black girlhood and womanhood. According to Brown’s personal website, black females in urban American culture are “portrayed in terms of their strength, resiliency, or trauma, this work seeks to interrogate these narratives by representing a nuanced spectrum of black womanhood in a racially and politically charged world.”

Brown discussed her creative process of the play in a TEDx event in March 2016 in a speech titled “NEGOTIATING MY SASS.”

In a New York Times review in September 2015, Gia Kourlas called the play “clever and tender…Ms. Brown, in other words, has put the black girl on a pedestal.”

“There’s great spirit in this evening-length work, influenced by Ms. Gaunt’s book, especially in the opening dance for Ms. Brown and Catherine Foster in which the pair sync up for sneaker-stomping duets that are so elastic, so intricate that the sense of cadence and rhythm is as visual an experience as it is an aural one,” Kourlas wrote.

University Theatre will host their next festival event this weekend in a performance called LEO. Directed by Daniel Briere, the play uses humor and acrobatic physical theatre and video projection. The “anti-gravity show” runs on Friday, June 23 at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

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