Choreographer Camille Brown just became the first Black woman to be nominated for a Tony in over two decades.The last Black woman to be nominated was Marlies Yearby for Rent in 1996.
The nomination came as a refreshing surprise to the Jamaica, Queens native as she recounted her own experiences with discrimination in the dance industry. The 37-year-old dancer told Forbes that: “My first 2 years [of college] I wasn’t even called to audition for a lot of choreographers because of my body type, which was very disheartening.”
For decades, Black dancers have dealt with body shaming within the dance and choreography community for being more curvy than the industry standard. However, Brown’s recent recognition illuminates her light and a much needed shift.
Her nomination for movement in the play Choir Boy, created by Oscar-winning screenwriter ofMoonlight, Tarell Alvin McCraney, is changing the narrative for Black dancers all over the world.
Additionally, her work has been commissioned by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Broadway theaters, and other prominent institutions. Her bold routines tap into both ancestral stories and contemporary culture to capture a range of deeply personal experiences.
Brown’s driving passion is to empower Black bodies to tell their story using their own language(s) through movement and dialogue. Through the company, she provides outreach activities to students, young adults, and incarcerated women and men across the country.
A proven fighter, she has faced battles off-stage as well. The 37-year-old dancer shared her struggles with pressure to retire in an industry full of much younger dancers. Not to mention she’s had a few health scares that resulted in two surgeries and IV infusions from a ruptured appendix.
The good news is, she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. She told Forbes that she hopes to: “Continue to both direct and choreograph for theater, film, and tv. The focus and goals are to always keep growing, learning, and discovering.”
Awards and accolades are not new to Brown. She is also the Choreographer for the Emmy award winning special “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” and the Tony award winning revival of “Once On This Island” on Broadway, which is set to begin its national tour in Fall 2019.
We can’t wait to see what stage Camille or her orchestrated movements will grace next!
Photo credit: Emilio Madrid-Kuser