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Camille A. Brown Residency & New Second Line Performance

Camille A. Brown Residency & New Second Line Performance

: Photo by Jenisa Ubben.

Camille A. Brown Residency & New Second Line Performance

: Photo by Jenisa Ubben.

Camille A. Brown Residency & New Second Line Performance

: Photo by Jenisa Ubben.

Camille A. Brown Residency & New Second Line Performance

: Photo by Jenisa Ubben.

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This November, Dance students performed choreographer Camille A. Brown’s New Second Line, the capstone activity of Brown’s artist residency at Cornish, as part of the Cornish Dance Theater Fall 2012 Concert. Inspired by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the ancestors of its victims, The piece centers on the celebrating spirits of New Orleanians’ forebears who dance in the “second line” behind a brass band funeral parade, celebrating their love of those who were lost. Student Richard Peacock explains, “It is inspired by the second line dances in New Orleans that would occur during funerals, weddings, club events etc.”

Although the performance is not obvious in its reference of these events, the wild, soulful, fierce joy is visible in the dancers’ movements, and glimpsed in their faces. This comes from a deeper connection that Brown helped students to establish with the underlying idea of a second line. “I didn’t even know what a second line was when this process started, and was unaware that such a spiritual event existed,” reflects student Arianna Lawson. “We are performing more than just movement, we are performing for the people who are not with us anymore. I’m dedicating it to my grandmother… Knowing it’s for her connects me to the movement even more.” Peacock responds similarly, “It’s hard to focus on moving forward and rejoicing when faced with tragedy; but as a collective people come together and lift one another up with these celebrations that we are emulating.  I find that I get emotional right in the thick of the dance.  It’s a combination of the intense physical investment, and memories from my own past that come to my mind as I perform this piece.”

Students worked directly with Brown for one of two weeks during her residency at Cornish, and from their reports, it was a demanding and deeply inspiring experience. “Learning the movement was a challenge in itself, but the hardest part was repeating the phrases until Camille felt they were up to her standards”, says student Colleen McNeary. “We were all exhausted after the first day, but it was a great feeling to be pushed to the limit of our physical capabilities.” Lawson also found the process physically exhausting, and said “I could tell she was invested, whole heartedly, into our process which made her inspire me to work even harder than I already was.” Peacock agrees and adds “I admire how hard she has fought to get where she is today, and how she instills that fight into her dancers.  I was trying to do one of the phrases she showed, but kept messing up.[...] When I finally got it she said, “You have to fight for it.”  I try to remember to, “fight for it” as much as I can, whether it’s performing, taking class or living life.”

Also in October, artists and arts appreciators gained insight into the method of rehearsing and choreographing used by Camille A. Brown & Dancers in an event at Cornish, in which company member Juel Lane gave a lecture and demonstration speaking about this work. The public was also invited to an open rehearsal as part of the same event, included in the Arts Crush featured series. Students compare Brown and Lane’s contributions by saying “Where Camille would bust out movement and drill us; Juel would take time and break things down deeper and fine tune that movement” (Peacock) and “It was great to have both of their energies and see the friendship they have developed over the years they have worked together.” (McNeary).

About dance based on current events, students say that New Second Line succeeds where others may fall short. “Dance that portrays real world events can sometimes become too literal, which in my eyes is not always successful,” says Lawson, “New Second Line works because the movement is there for a reason, which makes the piece make sense.” Peacock elaborates, “Dance that portrays real world events [is] an excellent tool to bring awareness to social justice and change.  I think New Second Line is precisely that.  The more I research and dig into what second lining is, and what it means, the more I understand how Camille wants to capture the resilience a group of people displayed in a moment when they faced [horrific events]. I also found it very touching that Camille and members of her company dedicated this piece to the loved ones they lost in Hurricane Katrina.”

Many of the students involved in Brown’s residency at Cornish and this performance of New Second Line feel that it was a career-changing experience. Richard Peacock, for one, says so:
“Working with Camille has been the highlight of my time at Cornish. Camille created a bond with each one of us in the week that she was here.  What she’s done at Cornish is something special; and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and work with such a beautiful and inspirational person.”

More information on the Camille A. Brown & Dancers company may be found at camilleabrown.org
The Cornish events calendar may be viewed at cornish.edu/news
The Camille A. Brown Residency was made possible with support from the Bossak Heilbron Charitable Foundation.


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