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Choreographer Camille A. Brown brings herself to film, television, opera and dance

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Camille A. Brown had a quick answer when asked what she wants audiences to see in her choreography and direction:

“Myself,” she said. ”That’s the most important thing. As an artist you have to bring who you are. Whether it’s through opera, theater, film, dance, it’s a representation of who I am.”

Brown listed all those art forms for a reason.

Camille A. Brown

Acclaimed choreographer, director and dancer Camillle A. Brown will bring her company to the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Thursday.

©Josefina-Santos/New York Times

In addition to leading one of the country’s top dance ensembles, the Tony-nominee was the director and choreographer for the critically acclaimed Broadway staging of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf;” has choreographed and co-directed three productions at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House; and choreorgraphed “Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert,” the 2018 NBC telecast featuring John Legend; and the Netflix movie “My Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

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“They’re all different, I love that,” Brown said. “People can see me in different ways. That certainly challenges me. ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ was theater and television, which is different from just one or the other. Opera is another very different thing, it’s for the voice, but how do you incorporate the body, too?”

Brown was born, raised in and still lives in the New York City borough of Queens. She began dancing at about age 4, attended the LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts, received a BFA from the University of North Carolina School of Arts and, in 2001, joined Ronald K. Brown’s company, Evidence.

Her company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, debuted in 2006, immediately receiving acclaim from the New York Times for the “personal physical style, with its focused bursts of energy and frozen positions that explode into motion, colors her group works very differently. ”

Thursday, a Lincoln audience will have an opportunity to experience her style vision when Camille A. Brown & Dancers bring a program rooted in her acclaimed trilogy at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

Thursday’s program will open with the first act of “Mr. TOL. E. RAncE,”— “It’s the Black experience and celebrating the people who paved the way,” Brown said of the bitingly humorous piece, inspired by Spike Lee’s movie “Bamboozled” and comedian Dave Chappelle’s “dancing v. shuffling” routine that looks at minstrelsy, “black face” and the “mask” of survival black performers have had to endure throughout history

The second half of the program will include excerpts from “ink,” the third part of the trilogy that celebrates the rituals, gestural vocabulary and traditions that remain ingrained within the lineage of the African diaspora and reclaims African American narratives by showcasing their authenticity.

Those dances will give the Lincoln audience a taste of the full, evening-length productions. “But excerpts can only do so much,’ Brown said. “Hopefully, it will get people interested in seeing the full pieces.”

So how, I asked Brown, do you create a piece that brings your personal experience, incorporates so many styles — modern, hip-hop, African, ballet, and tap — and functions as what she has called as “social dance for social change ”?

“It’s a process,” she said. “The other piece in the trilogy, ‘Black Girl,’ we’re doing this week (in New York) — it’s not going to be in the program for Nebraska — it’s about Black joy “So I think, ‘What does that look like? What do I want the audience to feel? What do I want the dancers to feel? How do I want the dancers to move? …’

“Part of it I was inspired by what little Black girls do, Double Dutch, so that’s in there. It’s a matter of thinking about life experience and translating that into the body.”

The trilogy, which was nominated for and won Bessie Awards, New York’s top prize for independent dance artists, is one of Brown’s most notable achievements. And there are other productions that, upon reflection, she embraces as her best work.

“There are definitely things I”m proud of,” Brown said.”Things are moving so fast you don’t get to sit with them at the time. You can look back at something and go, ‘Yeah, I’m really proud of that. … Last year, I choreographed (Terrance Blanchard’s opera) “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” and this year, ‘colored girls’ was on Broadway. Those were two huge life-changing experiences. I’m really proud of both of them.”

Brown, who was in the middle of the productions of the trilogy in New York that will close this weekend, is probably phasing out of dancing herself.

“I’m 42,” she said.”My last performance was before COVID. Because I’m starting to direct more, there’s a lot more time I’m going to be behind the scenes. I have to think about my body because I’m getting older, so I’m working that out.”

But she said, she plans to continue to create, choreograph and direct her company as she explores offers to work in other art forms.

““I’m definitely interested in more films, TV, theater and opera,” she said.”Sometimes the opportunities present themselves, definitely. But I’m looking to find them, too. But I’ll never leave dance.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or On Twitter @KentWolgamott