(Photo Courtesy: Urban Oasis Studios)
From Prince George’s County to Hollywood, dance has kept Paula Brown center stage. Her non-profit, Paula Brown Performing Arts Center routinely hosts its annual end-of-year performances at the Prince George’s Community College Center for Performing Arts. Brown is also a diligent member of the PGCC Business Council Cohort. This year Brown welcomed 32 girls from South Africa to train for a summer intensive in the space.
“I want to create memories for them,” Brown said. “These are life-changing environments. They’ll never forget this.”
Brown returned to her Prince George’s County roots 13 years ago with the guidance of her mentor Debbie Allen. Brown also moved back home to be closer to her aging mother, as she is an only child. Brown said Allen described her as a “dance prophet” and encouraged her to inspire the next generation of dance talent.
“I was able to come home and pass this baton,” Brown said. “All this information that I have—the success and career—I brought it back home.”
In 2014, Brown started Paula Brown Performing Arts Center and Brown Ballerinas with a mission to uplift girls of color by providing affordable access to classical ballet training and to shatter stereotypes in the classical ballet industry.
“Leaving the entertainment industry, television, film and everything that Los Angeles had to offer me to come here was very humbling, but at the same time I have absolutely no regrets because I just love seeing these young ladies develop,” Brown said. “I don’t have any children so I always tell people my students are my children.”
Brown was born and raised in Prince George’s County where she began training as a dancer under her mother’s tutelage at 10 years old. Her mother was also a professional dancer.
“I danced in her womb,” Brown said. “I was born into the world of dance and art.”
As a youth, she studied classical ballet at Jones-Haywood Dance School in Washington, D.C., and received her big break in 1979 when she became a member of the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble.
She went on to explore a notable career in television, film, and music securing roles in the “FAME” (1984-1986), “Lackawanna Blues” (1991), “School Daze” (1988), “Coming to America” (1988), “The Running Man” (1987), “Sledge Choreographer Sundance Film Festival” (2005), “Confessions of an Action Star” (2005), and “The Josephine Baker Story” as a dance double (1991).
Her credits also include being a platinum recording artist as the lead singer of chart-topping Eurodance group, Snap.
Brown has served as the artistic director for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (2006), “Good Morning America” (2002), “The Martha Stewart Show” (2001), “Ellen” (2002), “Fox's New Year's Eve Special” (2002), and “The Today Show” (2002).
After gaining experience from such an extensive career, Brown enjoys sharing her knowledge and wisdom with the next generation of local young talent. She is especially driven to push past racial barriers for dancers of color so that they can achieve success in the full range of dance genres including classical ballet.
“They expect us to do hip-hop and African dance,” Brown said. “There is a stigma. It’s been a part of my walk and my journey as a Black woman to address the racism and stigma that comes with classical ballet.”
For Brown, it's important that BIPOC youth see classically-trained ballerinas because it serves as a solid foundation for a career in performing arts and life in general.
“Young Black girls can study classical ballet, become known for this technique, and being Black,” Brown said. “This whole dance experience will help shape and mold them because it gives them such a level of self-esteem, especially in the world that we live in today.”
In December, Brown will bring ten dancers from South Africa to partner with local dancers from the DMV for another intensive training at PGCC Center for Performing Arts. This unique collaboration will form the Brown Ballerinas Dance Company. In January, Brown will travel to South Africa to lead her summer intensive training, “Brown Ballerinas Dream Big.”
For more information on Brown Ballerinas visit, https://www.paulabrownpac.com/