Clifton Brown has been one of my favorite dancers for the longest time. The first time I saw him perform was back in 2008-2009, when he was a company member in The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. At the time, I had just started attending The Ailey School. I had very little knowledge of the company and I had just started getting exposed to the modern dance world (before then I was just strictly studying classical ballet). A volunteer work opportunity was made available during the company’s season at the New York City Center. I had accepted it since I needed volunteer credit for school and because it allowed us to watch the performance for free. At the time, I didn’t know that I would become a huge fan of the company. Since then, I have never once missed their performances at the New York City Center. My family and I have become avid fans.
Back then, the company was made up of dancers like Matthew Rushing, Linda Celeste Sims, Glenn Allen Sims, Hope Boykin, Alicia Graf Mack, Renee Robinson, and Clifton Brown (just to name a few). I have seen the members change throughout the years and I have even attended the performance in which Judith Jamison announced that Robert Battle would become the next artistic director. I was a little saddened to see some of my favorite dancers leave the company, especially Clifton Brown. So when I heard that he was returning to the company this year, I was ecstatic!
I fell in love with his dancing when I watched him perform “Firebird” choreographed by Maurice Béjart. In classical ballet, the role of the firebird is generally performed by a female dancer, yet in this version, a male dancer fulfills the role. In that sense, it’s a really interesting piece to watch. I remember being captivated by Clifton Brown. He’s a tall, well-built man and you would probably think that his movement would only be masculine and strong, but it’s quite the opposite. He has this vast vocabulary when it comes to texture, movement, and emotions. He can move in a very powerful way, but he can also show delicacy. I have never seen a male dancer move his arms and hands the way Clifton Brown does. He has this ability to move like water (I can’t explain it any other way) and it’s this quality that makes him so mesmerizing to watch. When he’s performing, you can feel the audience being hypnotized by his dancing.
I’m beyond excited to see him perform with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater again.
Check out the company’s website for more information and performance dates: https://www.alvinailey.org/
Photograph taken at Earl Mosley’s Diversity of Dance “Dare to Dream Big: Giving Young Dancers a Voice” performance at the BAM Fisher Theater (2017).