Presented by the Brand Associates Dance Series and curated by choreographer, teacher and producer Jamie Nichols, BBMoves showcased powerfully deep work at the Brand Library on May 20, 2023. Performed outside of the library on a beautiful spring day, dancers Edgar Aguirre, Quron Clarks, Mawiyah Dowd, Jessie Hernandez, Adama Ideozu, and Glen Rodriguez moved fearlessly through the choreographic voice of Bernard Brown.
The program began with an excerpt from Brown’s Processing Sugar Notes. The work was described as a love letter to his grandmother, a piece exploring the complexities of sugar, the most important harvest crop in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and its long lasting effects on communities of color. The stage was set with packets of sugar lining the borders of the floor as three dancers dressed in white and brown costumes entered the space. The trio of dancers moved with a weighted strength which partnered with Brown’s choreographic choices, displayed honest storytelling to the systems of oppression that people of color face. The artists moved heroically to the music and sound by Mark Ernestys’ Ndagga Rhythm Force and ‘While You Dooo’ by Teebs.
Moving forward in the program was Brown’s second work, Meiji//Two. At this point in the show, it is distinctly clear that social justice moves the work of Bernard Brown. Meiji//Two was performed by Edgar Aguirre and Glen Rodriguez alongside the music by Flying Lotus’ ‘Auntie’s Harp.’ It was a testimony to the courage of immigrants as well as the corrupt systems that oppress them. The duet centered the relationship between the two dancers, as their treacherous journey to liberation deepens their relationship. The two dancers partnered each other with an athletic strength and rigor, embodying the fearlessness that people immigrating must have. The two performed with incredible presence and emotional vulnerability, using extreme facial gestures to support the storyline.
Next was Brown’s The Sweetness of Sweat performed by Quron Clarks and Glen Rodriguez to “A Good ACT to Follow” from Code Switch podcast by NPR and “LUV” by Defacto X. This work was made in remembrance to the HIV/AIDS pandemic amidst the emerging pandemic, COVID19. The choreographic choices explored the daring and fearless nature of being intimate, specifically for queer men of color. The dancers moved with seamless transitions as they embraced, lifted, and propelled one another through space. Brown’s choice for gesture work within his choreography adds to a storyline that is flawlessly executed by his performers in their commitment and physical ability.
The program continued with a solo titled Cravings performed by Edgar Aguirre to the music of ‘Absolutions’ by Max Roach and poem ‘Sugar Cravings’ by Indira Renganathan. Aguirre entered the space with a tote full of sugar packets that he spilled across the stage as he introduced himself to the audience. Aguirre moved with abandon and desire as his strength moved him quickly and dynamically through space. This work, as Brown describes it, “examines how health disparities and addiction continue to infiltrate the lives of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community through the lens of the world’s largest crop, sugar.”
To end the evening, an excerpt of Mason Project was performed by Mawiyah Dowd, Jessie Hernandez, and Adama Ideozu to the music of “Run Mourner Run” by Fannie Lou Hamer, “Circlesong Two” by Bobby McFerrin, “The Women Gather” by Nikki Giovanni, and “Inspiration” by Defacto X. This work honors the legacy of Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason, one of Los Angeles’ most prominent philanthropists, midwives, and real estate entrepreneurs who gained her freedom after traveling on foot behind the slaveholder’s wagon from Mississippi to San Bernardino. This work resembled the love, grit, and courage that women of color provide to the world. The three dancers honored Mason through Brown’s unique choreography that beautifully combined traditional West African movement with modern dance. Performed with collective ferociousness and unity, the dancers portrayed the weight of what it’s like to be a woman of color in America through Brown’s restricted movement, grounded momentum, and a clear display of anguish in emotion.
BBMoves is creating work that uplifts important narratives that have historically been erased and unheard. Brown is using the arts and social justice movements of both the past and present to create unique and revolutionary performances. Using African Diasporic movement, contemporary dance, and postmodern sensibilities, BBMoves is doing the important work of creating art that uplifts oppressed communities and their voices.
For more information about Bernard Brown/BBMoves, please visit their website.
For more information about the Brand Associates Dance Series, please visit their website.
Written by Rebecca Lee for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Bernard Brown/BBMoves – Edgar Aguirre in Cravings – Photo by Beth Megill