DanceForce Member: Cynthia Williams
Artist: Camille A Brown
Community Partners: Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva; HWS Provost Office; Richard Abrahamson
Having Camille A Brown & Dancers in Geneva, NY for five days was extraordinary. The company dancers and musicians enlivened the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts, moving, engaging and inspiring the diverse community that attended the various events of the residency. The goals of the project were two-fold: to make Ms. Brown’s socially-conscious, inspiring and contemporary choreography available to students and community members, and to provide the company creative time in the last phase of the creation of ink, the final piece in Ms. Brown’s identity trilogy. In outreach activities, we prioritized reaching Geneva students of color, Hillside Agency youth and HWS students who do not see themselves reflected in most contemporary modern dance. These goals were achieved.
Master classes in Social Dance forms brought a dynamic and overlooked genre to the studio: social dance forms, with their African and diasporic retentions of movement. Emphasizing the community and social nature of these dance forms attracted young dancers of color to campus, and Ms. Brown’s Artist as Activist lectured engaged non-dancers (HWS students and community adults) in conversation about race, stereotypes, the power of art, and the need for dialogue.
The highlight of the residency was the performances. An audience survey garnered the following comments: “dynamic, joyful, uniting,” “powerful, inspiring,” “excellent, heartfelt,” “story-telling, exhilarating, amazing,” “important. Speechless.” Ink is a truly moving work, presenting a series of duets that were nuanced, loving, tender, sassy, supportive and profoundly human. The live music, technique and artistry of the dancers, and complex layering of choreographic elements combined to make Ink both thought-provoking and artistically rich. The concert’s closer, New Second Line, was emotionally resonant and beautifully performed; it brought audiences to their feet both nights. The post-concert talkback by Ms. Brown and the cast deepened the sense of dialogue and connection that had been built.
We developed a new partnership with the Geneva Boys and Girls Club, and a deeper relationship with Hillside Children’s Center, a residential campus for children with social, emotional, and physical disabilities. A B&G Club supervisor wrote: “The kids loved the dance class and coming to the Gearan Center dance studio was a special treat…they especially loved getting to show that they knew some of the moves… [at a later B&G Club class] they enjoyed showing off what they had learned.” Hillside wrote: “Our youth most definitely enjoyed themselves! It was great to see them have huge smiles on their faces and even have a couple youth break out of their normal shy and timid selves; it was beautiful! The instructor had amazing energy and really knew how to interact with our youth and the other participants, and naturally he’s an amazing dancer. Our youth enjoyed it so much they wanted to come back and do it again ASAP! It truly means so much to us and our youth that we had this opportunity; we hope to be able to participate in an activity like this in the future! “