by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media
Baltimore native, Aubree Brown, has danced her way to the top in the styles of modern and jazz. When I met her she was a sophomore at Purchase State College. Even then her work ethic on Marley was like no other. She might not have been putting in work on the punching bag three times a day like my favorite prize fighter, Floyd Mayweather Jr., but two to three sessions in the dance studio a day is a pretty big deal too.
It wasn’t until her second summer dancing as a scholarship student at The Ailey School, that I was able to see her skill and elegance with my own eyes. Watching this beautiful ballerina grace the stage was a moment I will never forget. I’m not sure if it was my relationship with Ms. Brown or the tribal theme performance that made the experience so surreal. All I know is from that moment on; I knew she was going to be special to the dance world.
The stunning Ms. Brown has had her heart set on dancing professionally for the Alvin Ailey Company since her youth. Well, let’s fast forward to November of 2014. Brown is currently in her second year with Ailey II and she’s touring all over the world.
Determined and dedicated to her craft, Ms. Brown’s dream came true. She’s gone from campus performances to world tours and who knows what will happen next. Brown has just returned home to New York City after a month long tour where she had the opportunity to dance in Canada, Wisconsin, Minnesota and a slew of other places. She even performed in Jamaica with her fellow Ailey II dancers back in September.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Ms. Brown during Ailey II’s recent tour. We discussed many things from when her love for dance began, to her time as an Ailey II dancer, to her life off-stage and much more.
When did your love for dance begin?
“At a young age, my mother signed me up to be a cheerleader for the Randallstown Panthers in my hometown of Baltimore, MD. In the beginning, I loved it, but then eventually I started losing interest in chanting the same cheers and doing the same steps all the time. I wanted to do something that was more captivating and had more meaning.
“From there, I was accepted into Sudbrook Magnet Middle School where Dance was my magnet and I minored in Drama and Spanish. Each class that I took, I fell more and more in love with dancing, especially ballet. I loved the gracefulness of ballet and how challenging the steps were, but somehow it all became natural to me. That’s when I realized that I had found something that I was meant to do. I also enjoyed performing in dance recitals and being able to express myself through movement, instead of words since I was such an introverted person. Dance became my outlet and my release.”
You’ve dreamed of dancing with Alvin Ailey since the first time you saw them perform in your hometown of Baltimore, MD. As a young girl, what was it about the performance that grabbed you the most?
“Around the age of 10, I went to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. One of the pieces that they performed was a piece entitled, Revelations, one of Alvin Ailey’s masterpieces. Everything about that performance was beautiful to me from the humanistic movement, the music, the story line, and of course the dancers. Not only was the dancers’ technique flawless, but their giving spirits also pulled me in as an audience member. From that day on, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater became my dream company.”
You stayed very busy in your four years in the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase State College. How did your experiences there prepare you for a professional career in dance?
“The Conservatory of Dance not only helped me enhance my technical skills as a dancer, but also my artistry and versatility. Working with various choreographers and their own personal styles at Purchase definitely helped me in that aspect. It forced me to be open minded with no limitations. The dance world is so diverse these days and there are so many job opportunities, but if you limit yourself to specific styles, you are also limiting yourself from being successful in this competitive dance world.”
You’re now in your second year with Alvin Ailey’s second company. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an Ailey II dancer and how did you overcome it?
“Working with Ailey II has been an interesting learning experience. The most important thing I’ve learned is that you have to be able to block out any and everything that could get in the way of you accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Sometimes I have to remind myself how hard I worked to get to this place and how much harder I have to work moving forward.”
Where has been your favorite place of travel since you’ve been dancing professionally?
“So far my favorite place has been Paris, France. It’s somewhere that I’ve always dreamed of visiting one day and the fact that I made it there was an amazing experience for me. You see pictures or see movies that show off the beautiful city, but it’s nothing like seeing it in person. Paris is everything and more you ever thought it would be.”
Do you still enjoy life in New York after six years of being there?
“Believe it or not, I do (laughs). Sometimes the city can be a bit overwhelming with the fast paced life, the busy streets, the noise, and the traveling, but there’s also a beauty in all of that as well. Sometimes when I’m away in other cities, it can be very quiet and boring which makes me miss the crazy New York life.”
What do you wish the future holds for you in your career and life in general?
“In the future, I hope to look back on my life and be able to say that I’ve accomplished everything I’ve ever dreamed of and that I’ve learned something from each experience. Everything in life that we encounter is a learning experience. I want to learn something new about myself everyday in everything that I do.”
How would you describe yourself when you’re off stage in comparison to your personality when you’re performing?
“Off stage, I can sometimes be a very shy person and introverted at times. Just like Beyoncé, I have an alter ego. When I step on the stage, another person comes out because I’m so comfortable with my craft and it’s an outlet for me to be able to express myself through movement instead of words. I feel even more alive on stage than I do off stage.”
Outside of your dance life, what are some of the things that you enjoy the most?
“I enjoy ‘me time’ whether that be sleeping, relaxing, shopping, etc. Being with a professional dance company that only has 12 dancers and a hectic schedule, you don’t really get a chance to take time out to breathe and reflect. So, whenever I get the chance to collect myself and take my mind away from the chaos, I take it!”
What has dance taught you about life?
“Dance has taught me to be open minded and limitless. If you set boundaries on yourself, you won’t make it very far in life. There are so many endless opportunities out there waiting for us, but in order to grab them we have to be open. The same thing goes for dance. Even though I have a strong background in Ballet and Modern, I tried other styles of dance as well to show that I can be a versatile dancer, which has opened up more doors for me.”
What’s your advice to someone out there, male or female, who is striving to get their big break as a professional dancer, but hasn’t come face to face with it yet?
“Be open, be versatile and be YOU. If you know you have a strong background in dance, but also have a love for constructing pieces, try choreography. If you love Ballet, but maybe one day you would like to become one of Beyoncé’s backup dancers, try Hip Hop and Street Jazz. If you want something so badly, make it happen. Nobody can make anything happen for you, but you. In the process of all of that, be you. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others. Find what makes you stand out from the rest and that’s when someone will notice and remember you.”
I don’t believe one has to be in any specific place or profession to impact lives. With that being said, as a dancer how can you and fellow dancers impact those around you?
“Being a generous dancer and person, in general, will help impact the lives of others. As dancers, competitiveness can be our downfall at times and we lose our humility. We have to continue to learn from each other and help build each other up. We also have to be generous to those who aren’t dancers. The greatest feeling in the world, as a dancer, is knowing that you’ve touched someone in the audience, whether it be one person or a thousand.”