Still Spinning

Camille A. Brown

“I write to create myself.” —Octavia E. Butler

After the creative process for BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, I held a desire to dig even deeper and tell more stories of ritual, gestural vocabulary, and traditions of the African Diaspora. Our ancestors live inside of our bodies, because of this I began to investigate what accessing that power looks, sounds, and feels like. For inspiration, I was immediately drawn to two albums that had a significant impact on me when I was growing up. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill, and, Like Water for Chocolate by Common. I tasked myself with creating a movement language that embodied the same raw authenticity, and vulnerability that fuels those lyrics and music.

As I began to develop the concept for ink, I wanted the dancers to represent superheroes. I couldn’t figure out why I had the urge to play with this idea until I read Question Bridge: Black Males in America. One of the men interviewed said, “I see Black people as comic book heroes because they always keep rising.” That was it! It is about showing that in our basic survival, and natural attributes we have superhuman powers. Powers to shift, overcome, transform, and persevere even within an often hostile environment. The seven sections of ink represent super powers of spirituality, history and heritage, the celebration of the Black female body, Black love, brotherhood, exhaustion, and community. 

ink is the culmination of my trilogy on Black identity following, "Mr. TOL E. RAncE" (2012) and "BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play" (2015). The opening solo, Cultural Codes begins with a call to Elegba - a Yoruba deity that that opens and clears the space as guardian, protector, and communicator. Through the various revolutions of a structured phrase, the grio pulls out all the manifestations of Blackness. This solo makes possible Balance, a duet inspired by the Hustle and Lindy hop that displays the beauty of Black love and intimacy. Black love moves to Black beauty, inspired by Saartje Baartman’s ample curves, Milkshake, transposes the objectification of the Black female body into a rhythmic celebration and glorification of her form. It’s where “pattin Juba” meets “Go Go”. If BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play was a call, Turf is the response illustrating the Black male rite of passage propelled by the dab. Two innocents are hit with the reality of navigating being Black Men in America while protecting one another through it all. For those who bear the burdens of others, Shedding, evokes the story of those who keep us lifted even in the midst of their own enervation.  We are lead to Migration, a community of love support and enduring vitality moving with the sound of the violin- a reference the Kora, a West African instrument. With Musical references ranging from Ancestral rhythms, Go Go, Dancehall, The Notorious B.I.G. (Sky’s the Limit), Mary J. Blige (Real Love), Common (Time Travelin') and Jill Scott (Jilltro), ink uses the power of the past and present to propel us into the future.

I lift up our real life super heroes of the past who paved the way for us to fly and “be fly.” In flight, we see the super power of Black people in America. 

We keep rising.

~ Camille A. Brown