Beatrice Capote, left, and Chloe Davis are two pals whose friendship deteriorates in "BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play."
The idea of seeing Camille A. Brown’s “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” excited me. I thought here will be a work that will explore what it is like to be a black girl in America. It will enlighten with a point of view of the neglected black, female child. And it will apprise its viewer on racism, which too many believe no longer exists.
But if you enter with high expectation, you often leave disappointed. That’s what happened on Thursday night at Jacob’s Pillow where Brown staged her evening-length work with her Camille A. Brown and Dancers. While all the moving parts – the music, the sets and the dancers were outstanding, “BLACK GIRL” didn’t inform or uplift its audience. It just was simply an extended mime of girlish games – jump rope, hopscotch and patty cake for an hour.
And while the bluesy bass played by Robin Bramlett and piano played by Scott Patterson added tone and color, the dance left one void of any sympathy or feeling for these girls – an essential ingredient to engaging one’s soul and psyche, which is the reason for art.
It begins with Brown herself stomping and dancing in an extensive solo. She grooves on the musical rhythms with her feet and her hands. Jumping to and from raised platforms, there was an expectation that her dance would build. But it stayed in place as she skipped and sprung and made a lot of gestures – fist pounding her chest in a gesture of love or swinging her head around with attitude.
She was finally joined by Catherine Foster. The two played out a duet that started with fancy footwork derived from double Dutch jump roping and it grew into a foot pounding, hand-clapping battle into which the two were perfectly synchronized. Here is where you see the skill involved in Brown’s work, but some how the visual and aural sport didn’t add up to anything that could touch the human heart.
The closest that came was a duet between Bernice Capote and Chloe Davis. The friendship between these two was destroyed as Davis sought to outshine Capote. The latter crumpled into a heap, destroyed by Davis’ dismissal of her for her own personal gains. Here was a story that all could relate to.
The final section with Brown and Teneise Ellis was baffling. Brown looked to be braiding Ellis’ hair, but Ellis ducked time and again from Brown, flopping about in ways that were baffling. The incomprehensible movement and relationship further complicated an appreciation for “Linguistic Play.”
Applause must be given to Elizabeth Nelson for her colorful chalkboard set. It lent this labored dance an urban and multicolor flare that was gloriously welcome.