Clifton Brown

November 14, 2011

Clifton Brown. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

For 12 years, Clifton Brown has been one of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s leading men and a fan favorite. Quietly authoritative onstage, he balances explosive power with serene, noble poise. Raised in Goodyear, AZ, Brown first encountered dance at age 4, when his grandmother put him in acrobatics, jazz and tap classes at a local studio to improve his coordination. By high school he was serious about modern and ballet, and after graduation he enrolled in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program in NYC. (He was a member of the program’s first class!) A year later he was invited to join AAADT, and in the decade-plus since then he’s charmed audiences and critics all over the world. Catch Brown performing as a guest artist with AAADT this month at New York City Center.  —Margaret Fuhrer

Dear Clifton,

Your love of dance is a beautiful thing. Don’t ever lose it. You’ll have great experiences traveling the world and touching many people’s lives—seriously! Please don’t take it for granted.

Trust yourself when you dance. Every endeavor will give you valuable information for the future, whether the outcome is better or worse than you anticipated. The only way to truly fail is to not try. Don’t overthink it.

You will receive a lot of information. Listen intently to it all, even if it seems confusing or overwhelming. Hold on to what you know is meaningful in dance. Keep appreciating the beauty, the grit, the subtle gestures, the leaps across the entire stage, the stillness…and everything in between. It will ultimately keep you sane.

Remember that performing is a balancing act: You must reach to convey ideas that may be outside of your life experience, and also dig to express the feelings inside you. Being an artist means pushing your boundaries, but you don’t need to be all things to all people. You are enough, exactly as you are. Don’t try to be anyone or anything else.

Embrace your whole experience, from the standing ovations to the worst reviews. Know that as long as you sincerely share yourself and your gift, it’s all worth it.

Clifton Brown