Q&A with Jay Staten: D.C. Native Returns to Perform with Camille A. Brown & Dancers


Washington, D.C. native Jay Staten has an incredible collection of achievements in activism, education, and dance. He’s absolutely thrilled to be performing in-person with Camille A. Brown & Dancers this April at the Center for the Arts. We had the delightful opportunity of conversing with Jay Staten about his upcoming visit to the Center for the Arts. Learn more about this incredible dancer in the following exclusive Q&A:

How does it feel to have Camille A. Brown & Dancers together again, in-person on tour?

Jay Staten Joins Camille A. Brown & Dancers at the Center this April.
Jay Staten joins Camille A. Brown & Dancers at the Center April 2.

STATEN: We didn't know what was going to happen for a long time or if we were ever going to perform again, so to be back on stage is a blessing. It's been delicious and nutritious! We've already done three performances in San Jose and Auburn, Alabama which were both amazing. The new company members came in really well and it just feels like old times. We’re a family. These are the people I travel with, the people I run with—these are my people, so I couldn't be happier.

As a native of D.C., how do you feel about coming back and performing in the DMV area?

STATEN: D.C. is where it all started for me and it’s amazing to be back. My whole family is coming to the show. They’ve been with me early in my career and now they get to see me later in my career, which I can’t wait for.

One of the other dancers is also from D.C., so it’s me and Catherine (Cat) Foster. But whether she was from D.C. or not, I'm always in the wings shouting, “Go, Cat!” I’m excited that she gets to come home to DMV too and show off how her career has evolved. Her dancing has so much in it, and she is a treasure. It’s funny, when I was going to Duke Ellington School of the Arts, her mom, Carol Foster, was the artistic director.

What piece in the upcoming Center for the Arts performance is most significant to you personally?

STATEN: The piece that has been really significant to me is Mr. TOL E. RAncE, because it celebrates and pays tribute to black performers from the early days of Black performance. It also celebrates Black culture, while pointing out stereotypes we go through. It's one of those pieces that Black and white audiences alike get so much from because it's so full of history. And not only are you getting the message, and love the message, but visually, it's a stunning piece. It has a slideshow going on, live music on stage, and some of the best dancers in the country. It checks off every box.

If you could perform anywhere in the world with Camille A. Brown & Dancers, where would you perform? What could the company bring to that community?

STATEN: I would choose Africa, anywhere in Africa, but definitely South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya. Africa has its own roots and its own culture so it would be great to show that though we might be removed from our African base, we're still connected—it still lives in the air we breathe, how we communicate, and how we have grown in this country.


Camille A. Brown & Dancers Company Member, Catherine (Cat) Foster
Fellow D.C. native and Camille A. Brown & Dancers company member, Catherine (Cat) Foster.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers is a Mason Artist-in-Residence, which includes work with our Mason School of Dance students. What is some advice you’d give to those who want to professionally pursue dance?

STATEN: My advice would be to have more than one skill set in dance, while remembering that you should already come with the skill set of being a human. You can’t let that die and become a dancer that can't find humanity in your work.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with the Center for the Arts audiences?

STATEN: Come in with an open mind because this is going to be a feast for the eyes and the brain. Enjoy!

Jay Staten began his dance training at the critically acclaimed Duke Ellington School of the Arts in D.C. Along with a BFA from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, Staten has developed a program entitled Bring It to the Marley-DC, which brings dance students from all over the east coast to perform in Washington, D.C. together. Staten states his mission for the program is to “provide quality activities and experiences to African American children from all social-economic backgrounds through dance education, dance outreach, producing on-stage dance opportunities, as well as training and coaching dance educators and dance studio owners.” Bring It to the Marley-DC has provided services for hundreds of children as well as over $3.2 million in scholarships since its creation in 2013. Most recently in 2020, Staten created a new dance company Movement X By Jay Staten. Rooted in African-American culture, practices, and traditions, Staten’s dance company's main goal is to promote Black Excellence amongst children who love to dance and want to develop their skills. 

Performance Information for Camille A. Brown & Dancers:
Saturday, April 2 at 8 p.m. at the Center for the Arts

Watch exerpts from Camille A. Brown & Dancer's Mr. TOL E. RAncE: