Monday, January 13, 2014

Camille A. Brown's The Gathering, a rousing success

The visionary Camille A. Brown
who created and convened The Gathering
(c)2014, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
With Baraka Sele (left), discussion moderator
for Brown's historic event
(photo by Cynthia Oliver)
Just do what you do.
-- Katherine Dunham

The Gathering--a special event conceived and convened by Camille A. Brown to offer safe space to discuss issues of concern to Black women choreographers--drew a huge, delighted response and support from all sectors of the field, including men, last evening. Brown--most recently hailed for her powerful evening-length work, Mr. TOL E. RAncE--realized her goal, not only drawing from her own peer group but an inter-generational, intercultural community including arts administrators, educators, journalists, presenters and supporters. Looking around the room, one could spot dance notables such as Dianne McIntyreSylvia Waters, Brenda Dixon Gottschild, Ronald K. Brown, Nathan Trice, Elka Samuels Smith, Cynthia Oliver, Edisa Weeks, Paloma McGregor, Matthew Rushing, Renee Robinson, Theresa Howard and many more from New York and beyond. Frankly, the vibes in that City Center studio were mind-blowing!

Moderator Baraka Sele set a respectful, positive and productive tone, creating an atmosphere for deep listening and the discovery of resources we can share. She urged us to focus not on problems but on facts, solutions and our individual and collective responsibilities.

We spoke of numerous issues--from the prevalence of racism throughout the arts system and the need to "de-center" whiteness to a call for adequate resources for physical and emotional wellness for the dancer. Participants cited interests in securing more time and affordable space to develop work, meaningful collaboration, community building and, of course, more funding for our projects. We called for better feedback on creative work, both artist-to-artist and via published critiques. Of course, I mentioned the need for more writers of color in dance journalism and sustainability for all writers on dance.

Time was short but, while we could not address in depth every item on our list, we felt confident that The Gathering will generate future activity and exciting collaborations.

Congratulations and deepest thanks to Camille A. Brown and Baraka Sele!

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