African Diasporic arts organization 651 ARTS is debuting “Boxed: A Game of Winning and Losing,” a vividly fluid dance performance that explores our transformation from childhood into adulthood and the lessons childhood games may teach us as we navigate life.

A work-in-progress created and led by choreographer Antonio Brown and his ensemble Antonio Brown Dance, “Boxed” will premiere on Thursday, May 23, at the Center for Performance Research in Bushwick. The performance is the first produced under 651 ARTS’ Creative Director Raelle Myrick-Hodges, who said that Brown’s performance “is exactly the kind of work we want to support at 651.”

“I have been a fan of Antonio Brown as a performer and choreographer since I arrived in New York in 2016. The work is simultaneously introspective and hopeful,” said Myrick-Hodges. “He makes me excited to see dance because his work has emotional and technical duality — rigorous yet, grounded in the emotional reality of his company.”

In his production, Brown wrestles with questions like: “Can being good at hopscotch get one ahead in life?”  “Is the sandbox the first and best way to make friends or destroy them?” And: “Why does adulthood require playing games to get ahead in life?”

Ultimately, “Boxed” challenges the audience to see through the harshness of a world of adult “game-playing” to a world that inspires human connection, laughter and the important things in life, Brown said. But the name of the performance also refers to the boxes we are placed in by society — and how we yet can create our own space within.

“I aim to provide a voice for people of color, to tell our stories through movement, creating an intimate space that reflects the fluidity of life,” said Brown. “With Boxed, I wanted to explore the concept of allowing questions that are universal to our growth as humans. And “Boxed” names the games/rules given to culture while celebrating the games/rules we’ve created for ourselves to survive and heal.”

Antonio Brown. Photo credit: New York Live Arts

Brown started his dance career at the Juilliard School of Dance before working with Sidra Bell Dance, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, Nials Martins and Stephen Pier, among others. As a lead dancer for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance, he worked on over 30 dance works as dancer and choreographer. In his role as artistic director for Antonio Brown Dance, he focuses on creating work that allows the growing socio-political international climate to become conversations through movement.

And that, according to Myrick-Hodges, is in perfect alignment with 651 ARTS, which is equally dedicated to supporting the professional development for emerging artists of African descent by providing a stage for their works.

“I can say with absolute certainty that Antonio Brown Dance is the future of choreographic dance, and at the core of our mission at this institution is the artist and giving them a platform to elevate their art,” she said. “For a young artist from Cleveland to go on to become a principal dancer of one of the most important dance companies in the United States, to founding his own company where he is creating work and sharing his truth as a black man in America, is truly extraordinary. Antonio and Antonio Brown Dance have a story to tell, and we want to ensure that they get to tell it.”

Boxed: A Game of Winning & Losing will premiere on Thursday, May 23 at the Center for Performance Research and will run through Saturday, May 25. Tickets are $20 in advance and available here

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