Interview with Brittany Brown on her upcoming piece, "the Fluid Flow Fluidly
Lauren: How did you start working with Chicago Danztheatre?
Brittany: I had just graduated from Columbia and I was working at Café Con Leche. And Ellyzabeth comes in, she was meeting somebody, and they’re talking about a lot of dance stuff and the afterschool program and this initiative she was trying to get started for the next year. So I’m sitting there, working on my dance stuff thinking, “Who is this lady?” And then, after she was done with her meeting I introduced myself to her and after that we didn’t talk much for about a year. And then I saw a thing in Chicago Artist Resource, “Looking for solo performance.” It could be improv, it could be not improv- for this show. I submitted for it. Realized it was her. She realized it was me. And we’ve been working on stuff together ever since.
Lauren: How did you start dancing?
Brittany: I’ve been dancing my whole life. Not necessarily taking class. I started off doing competitive cheerleading, the dance portion, in the fourth grade. Then started doing different dance crews, hip hop dance crews. I was in this company called Creative Soul based out of Rodger’s Park. We used to do modern dance performances at churches, things like that. Highschool dance teams. Then I decided to pursue it professionally, I went to college for it and finally started taking technique. So I didn’t start my technical dance training until I was about nineteen. I had already had a lot of experience doing choreography and performance, which is kind of backwards from what a lot of people have. Interesting transition.
Lauren: Why do you dance?
Brittany: It’s the only way I know how to properly articulate myself. I like words and that’s cool, but I feel like I express myself most clearly through dance. It’s this weird obsession where if I’m not doing it, I find myself depressed. So I know that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. No matter how hard of work it is or how stressful it gets at times, the feeling if I’m not doing it the feeling is worse. That’s what makes me feel good about where I am.
Lauren: What inspired the piece you are performing for the upcoming spring show?
Brittany: This piece started out as five different things before it got to what it really is. Originally I was inspired by the concept of merging my love for flow art and my love for dance?
Lauren: What is flow art?
Brittany: It is performance with object manipulation. So you could be using a hula hoop, poi or contact staff. It’s object manipulation through movement. And I’ve been really into that for the past three years, but it’s been separate from my dance life. And recently I started performing professionally and then noticing how I could incorporate it with dance. I realized I wanted to get my dancers together with the best flow artists I know and that was the initial idea. Putting the cast together.
Once I had the cast together, we were playing with seeing what happens when you layer it together. We started playing with the concept of bringing in our own visions- things that have happened to us in our life that have inspired us to become the people we have chosen to become. Meditation visions or events that happened that stimulated a thought. We started from there and then took a break and came back to it. Initially I was going to do a different dance piece that I had already produced called, “In,” a dance piece about going deeper to find the connectivity between you and other people. It’s a really beautiful piece.
I couldn’t get enough members of the cast together so I decided to use my new flow fusion piece for this show. That’s when I came up with the concept of “The Fluid Flow Fluidly” which is the name of the piece. And the way I like to do dance activism is not by making really political pieces that talk about certain subjects or showing something that’s wrong with the world, but rather shedding a little bit of light on things that I do from my personal experience to help me feel more at peace in this realm of existence. So the concept of “Flow Fluidly” is that once you achieve flow, everything in your life will fall into flow as well.
The way I broke it apart is a series of mantras. Each section of the dance has a certain word associated with it that represents a mantra that scales through the chakras. We call it the journey to flow. It starts with acceptance, that there is good and bad in this world, in everyone. If you accept who are as a human being, you can start to heal. From acceptance it goes to surrender. Surrender to the now, to the moment. Then from surrender it goes to space, which is finding that clarity. Then it goes into see something, which is really- pay attention to the nuanced details and patterns. We represent that in this extremely layered choreography of flow and dance. It’s really the pinnacle of the performance.
I had everyone in the cast write poems about what flow meant to them. What they feel when they are in a state of flow. I used that as inspiration. We developed movement together.
Lauren: What does flow mean to you?
Brittany: To me everything is water. We are made up of mostly water. Our planet is made up of water. Water is this very unique substance that has the ability to be a gas, a liquid or a solid. To me flow is water. The ability to hold form when you need to. The ability to slide through narrow passage ways when you need to. It’s mobility- not just of the body but of the mind. The ability to make subtle shifts in the moment. The ability to live your life being a witness and the witnessed at the same time.
It’s the ability to be still and calm enough to observe what is happening around you and not always trying to manipulate what is happening around you. Being able to see those passage ways, where your path is going and guiding it rather than forcing it.
In the past- I’m super perfectionist about my work- in the past I have been so stressed out about getting things to be exactly as I see them in my head. Making up an entire dance before I come to rehearsal and then setting it on the people and I don’t work like that anymore. There’s a lot to be said about energy people provide in the space and getting into that zone in the moment. Letting different moments come to you. That’s how it relates to my creative process. The majority of the songs used in the sound score just were random songs. I didn’t think, “This song for this section. This song for this section.” It’s just during the rehearsal process I would be very connected and pick a song and it would happen to be perfect.
Lauren: How do you think your piece fits together with the other pieces being performed?
Brittany: I don’t know much about the other pieces. I do know Lisa, we went to college together. I do know her style of choreography. I think it’s going to be very different from what I’m bringing. I’m more of a spectacle choreographer.
Spectacle dance is more for the, “Ah!” moments and the visual stimulation of the piece and less about the content. Content being the overarching thing that the audience is supposed to get. For me, if you leave my show feeling happy and pleased, then I did my job. If you just so happened to get those subtle moments of content that were in there, then good for you. But it’s more about the enjoyment of the piece for me. I know Lisa and really, really good contextual choreographer. Her work I’ve seen in the past has been predominantly modern dance. My piece is a little bit more contemporary. It’s got some other influences.
Lauren: How would you describe the difference between contemporary and modern?
Brittany: Modern, to me, is more internal movement. Very weighted. In performance it seems to be very pedestrian sometimes. Especially post-modern dance. Whereas contemporary, to me, is more about creating those striking visual lines. Really going with the music. Even then, the word contemporary, I use it because I don’t have a better word. It’s definitely not the contemporary you see on So You Think You Can Dance. I just use that term because it’s so many different forms. All my dancers come from different backgrounds. One of my dancers is really modern. Another one of my dancers is modern with a lot of African influences. So her movement is very rhythmic. And I have a dancer who is a contemporary dancer with a lot of hip hop influence. So her dancing is very percussive, staccato a lot of sharp edges to her movement.
My movement is a mixture of modern a little bit of ballet, liquid which has a lot to do with sequential movement and undulation. I am inspired by tribal dance, like belly dancing. I’m inspired a lot by visual art. That’s what I was first. I look to sacred geometry a lot for my movement. I develop it through looking at images of sacred geometry. I don’t know if that’s exactly contemporary. I’m not a dance scholar, so I’m really just waiting for somebody else to make up a better word!
Lauren: What is sacred geometry?
Brittany: It is the math of the universe. It is the geometry that is in a tree. It is the geometry that holds the nectar of existence together. There are certain patterns you find in everything, like the flower of life or Metatron’s cube, which is all the platonic solids put together. The platonic solids are circle, hexagon, triangle, square. They’re all layered in this one beautiful shape.
Lauren: What do you want the audience to take away from this performance?
Brittany: Just inspiration. I want people to see this show, see how we are dancing- how we’re manipulating these objects. To say, “Wow! I want to see more of that.” or “Wow! I want to try that. I wonder if I could do that?” I want people to walk away with these mantras. To feel like, “Maybe if I try these things I could flow.” I want people to walk away wanting to flow in some area of their life.