Debra Brown - 2002 Biography
March 22, 2002 - Renowned choreographer Debra Brown, working with a troupe from the unique and inimitable Cirque du Soleil, will enliven the 74th Annual Academy Awards® with a tribute that celebrates a yet to be announced aspect of cinema. "It will be an exciting interpretation," promises Brown, who is often praised for her innovative use of contortionism, gymnastics, and aerial choreography. Anyone who has seen Brown's inventive and often gravity-defying work with Cirque du Soleil will attest to its startling artistry.
For the award-winning Brown, however, one of the biggest challenges in choreographing this routine for the Oscar® Awards is not overseeing the dangerous and difficult aerial feats. Rather, it is communicating with the members of the troupe-of the 30 Cirque members who will perform that night. For the majority, English is a second or even third language. "I do use an interpreter, but mostly we rely on visuals and trust to work together. We are creating our own language through movement," says Brown. She has incorporated these varied cultural influences into her work over the past 15 years, while working as principal choreographer of Cirque and lending her expertise to other projects.
Brown got her first glimpse of Cirque du Soleil after she literally sneaked under the big top in Vancouver and caught the show. At the time, the Canada-native was gaining a reputation for her avant-garde work with local dance troupes and the Canadian gymnastics team. A year later, in 1987, Brown joined the acclaimed Montreal-based circus as its principal choreographer. Her talents were quickly recognized. Theater critic Bruce Weber of The New York Times called "O" which Brown choreographed in 1998, "high-spirited, semisurreal and visually arresting - in other words, very Cirque." Among other accolades, she received the prestigious Bob Fosse Innovative Choreography Award in 1997.
In addition to choreographing eight shows for Cirque during her tenure, Brown has worked on operas, music videos, and touring performances. Last year, she created and guided Madonna's aerial feats for the Drowned World Tour. "Madonna wanted to learn how to fly for the show and we had to be precise about her timing in the air," says Brown, who outfitted the singer with a harness and sent her skyward.
She also worked alongside the band Aerosmith, choreographing their video "Jaded" and their energetic performance for the American Music Awards. Brown's novel choreography for the opera-including her signature use of
bungie cords-has been showcased in premieres at New York's Metropolitan Opera with Luciano Pavarotti, Chicago's Lyric Opera, and the Theatre de L'Unite and Arts Nova in Paris.
Her eclectic resume is, no doubt, an outgrowth of her attitude towards her craft. "I don't look at movement as being stylized. I don't see myself as a choreographer of any particular type of dance," says Brown, who is constantly
striving to reinvent the language of movement. Her latest celebrated effort involved working with the 2000 Canadian Olympic Synchronized Swimming at the summer games in Sydney, Australia. Currently, Brown is the creative force
behind a movement troupe she founded called Apogee, which has performed at such high profile events as an AIDS benefit hosted by Elizabeth Taylor in Los Angeles and the official NFL Superbowl Party in 1997. The troupe is presently developing a new show.
The 74th Annual Academy Awards® will broadcast live on March 24th. Rehearsals will be talking place on March 22nd and March 23rd at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.