Award-winning choreographer, director, dancer and alumna Camille A. Brown will speak at the 2023 UNCSA commencement ceremony, Chancellor Brian Cole has announced.
Founder and artistic director of Camille A. Brown & Dancers since 2006, Brown will address undergraduate and graduate students at the University Commencement at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, at Wait Chapel on the campus of Wake Forest University.
In addition to her iconic work in the dance world, Brown has in recent years branched into theater, opera, film and television. She was Tony-nominated for her directorial debut on Broadway, and has won and been nominated for numerous other awards.
“I am thrilled that Camille A. Brown will be the speaker for our 57th commencement at UNCSA,” said Chancellor Cole, who will preside over the ceremony. “She has already won many well-deserved accolades during her 22-year career but continues to grow and develop as an artist and storyteller, challenging herself and her creative vision.
“I am perhaps most struck by her commitment to reaching out to her community and across the nation, whether through her choreography, her dance company or her new virtual school, Social Dance for Social Change, which offers free classes, lectures and mentorship opportunities. Camille is a tremendous role model for all of us.”
Camille A. Brown is a prolific Black choreographer whose work taps into both ancestral and contemporary stories to capture a range of deeply personal experiences and cultural narratives of African American identity.
As artistic director of Camille A. Brown & Dancers (CABD), she strives to instill curiosity and reflection in diverse audiences through her emotionally raw and thought-provoking work. Her trilogy on race culture and identity has won accolades: “Mr. TOL E. RAncE” (2012) was honored with aBessie Award; “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” (2015) was Bessie-nominated; and “ink” (2017) premiered at The Kennedy Center to critical acclaim.
In 2022, she made her Broadway directorial debut for the Broadway revival of “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf,” making her the first Black woman to direct and choreograph a Broadway show since Katherine Dunham in 1955. The production, proclaimed “triumphant” by The New York Times, received seven Tony Award nominations including best direction of a play and best choreography.
Other Broadway credits include: “Choir Boy” (Tony and Drama Desk nominations for best choreography), Tony Award-winning “Once On This Island” (Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Lortel nominations), and “A Streetcar Named Desire” (2012); off-Broadway: “Toni Stone” (Lortel and Audelco nominations), “Much Ado About Nothing” (Audelco), “This Ain’t No Disco,” “Bella: An American Tall Tale” (Audelco), and “Fortress of Solitude” (Lortel nomination); and at New York City Center Encores!: “Cabin in the Sky” and “Tick Tick…Boom!”
In 2021, Brown became the first Black artist to direct a mainstage production at The Metropolitan Opera, sharing directorial duties with James Robinson on Terence Blanchard’s acclaimed “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” — the first opera by a Black composer ever performed at the Met. Brown also choreographed the opera, receiving a Bessie nomination for outstanding choreography. She had choreographed “Porgy & Bess” two years earlier.
This spring, Brown is the choreographer for Blanchard’s second Met premiere, “Champion,” and “Soul Train,” the Broadway-bound musical directed by Kamilah Forbes and written by Dominique Morisseau, this summer at American Conservatory Theater.
Brown’s film and TV work includes “Harlem” (2022) (Amazon Prime); “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix); Emmy Award-winning “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert!” (NBC); “New Year’s Eve in Rockefeller Center” (NBC); and “ink,” a dance film by CABD for Google Arts & Culture.
She has been featured on the cover of Dance Magazine (2018) and Dance Teacher magazine (2016); on PBS' “Articulate,” a nationally syndicated documentary series on the arts; and in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Brown has received numerous awards including Guggenheim, Doris Duke Artist, Dance Magazine, United States Artists, Audelco, Princess Grace Statue, Jacob’s Pillow, New York City Center, USA Jay Franke & David Herro Fellow, TED Fellow, and Kennedy Center’s Next 50. Other awards include a Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship in 2017 and the Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Choreography and Emerson Collective Fellow, both in 2020. In 2019, she was named a recipient of the UNCSA Alumni Artpreneur of the Year Award, for creative enterprise, receiving $20,000 to sustain her company.
Brown began her training at Bernice Johnson Culture Schools for the Arts and Carolyn Devore Dance Studios in Queens and later graduated from the LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts. She received a B.F.A. in 2001 from the School of Dance at UNCSA, where she studied contemporary dance. She began her professional career as a dancer with Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, a dance company, from 2001-2007.
The speaker for the UNCSA High School Commencement will be announced at a later date.
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February 22, 2023