Sir Brock Warren: Anatomy of a ‘Journey To Greatness’

Journey To Greatness

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Underneath the surface of Sir Brock’s latest performance creation “Journey To Greatness” is the story of a gifted, multi-talented artist’s life from uncertainty to self-acclamation.

The opening of the show hits hard at one of the most troubling dilemmas confronting many African-American family households today, the absence of the father.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from 2012, nearly 73 percent of African-American births are out of wedlock and at less 67 percent live in single-family households. However, the fatherless household is not just an African-American family problem; it is an American family problem.

The Center for Disease Control reported the following statistics that shows a drastic increase in single parent mostly female run households since 1960 when overall single-parent households were at 11 percent in the United States.

Racial or ethnic group

Children in single-parent families

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

17 percent

Non-Hispanic whites

25 percent

Hispanics

42 percent

American Indian and Native Alaskans

53 percent

Non-Hispanic blacks

67 percent

So what does all this talk about the absence of the father from the family unit have to do with Sir Brock’s production “Journey To Greatness?” Everything. It is from these challenging beginnings that Sir Brock emerged.

“Well, you know I realized at a young age of about eight years old that it wasn’t going to be the way I wanted it to be,” said Sir Brock. “I had asked for more of his presence. So at that age I said, ‘OK, I get it. He is not gonna be around as much as I want him to be.’ And I let it go, and I think it pushed me to fend for myself, to be my own man.”

Watching how Sir Brock interpreted his situation with his father to an audience at Studio@620 in downtown St. Pete was breathing taking, especially for those who have experienced identical emotions and frustrations. The staccato yet lyrically painful dance motions needed no explanation. A boy needs a father. So how does one become a man without a father?

“I had to come into my own. A man learns to be himself by watching other men. Since I didn’t have that, I had to push myself and encourage myself to look around for other figures that I could relate to that came in the form of uncles, mentors and teachers. And those people helped me estimate what a man should be. I took that and ran with it,” he said.

As the performance moved on, so did the characters in song and dance, progressing and processing the confused mess that life can throw at us. In the end, we have to be more than bystanders because bystanders can easily become victims.

“So at a young age I was very independent and strong, said Sir Brock. “That was one of my lessons in life. Because I didn’t have a father figure, I used to cry about it as a young child. But then I realized, hey, you have to keep moving forward if you want to continue to be happy. I don’t know how I interpreted it that way at such a young age, but I did and it pushed me.”

Sir Brock’s new-found strength in the midst of chaos was creative expression.

“I put my all into my art, my schoolwork and the gifted program.”

He was at a critical age in childhood where children start to take in life and begin to decide how they will handle tough situations. In short, children begin to choose whether they will fight or take flight.

“It’s at that age of six, seven or eight that you first begin to figure out what you want to be in life. When I teach students at that age, they absorb everything, all the nuances and movements. They’re like sponges.”

Sir Brock stumbled upon all he wanted to be in life on an ordinary school bus ride in the third grade.

“I was on the school bus and I was singing a Boyz II Men song. The whole school bus was. After a while, everyone stopped but I continued. They told my teacher when we got to school, so she listened to me sing and called my choral teacher Nebi Fulwood. Then I started getting vocal lessons from her. So all this took off from there,” explained Sir Brock.

“She (Fulwood) started teaching me African dance then she introduced me to Baba Chuck Davis, who is a renowned choreographer for African modern dance, and he allowed me to be in the African-American Dance Ensemble Community Project here in St. Pete, which is where I met Mama Jai and started doing Dundu Dule. In middle school I attended John Hopkins High School and then the Gibbs High School dance program and danced, danced, danced. It was culture. It was like a way of life for me! I saw going into Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) that you could make it a career and prosper from it.”

Sir Brock’s “Journey” delved deeply below the surface of life in his choreography and original lyrics. The transitional movement through life’s ups and downs in the show echoed his sojourn from a disheartened boy who connected with the arts to become a serious and balanced artist absorbing everything possible to take him to that next level. And that next level was the Boston Conservatory for which PCCA had thoroughly prepared him.

“That program set me up for success in college. By the time I got to the point of doing my final project in college, I had done that in high school already. It was not like I had to take hours and hours to prepare it.”

Sir Brock said that he also came away with a deeper understanding and love for ballet at 15 or 16 when he attended a workshop at the Rock School of Ballet in Pennsylvania during his years at Gibbs. However, he is most in sync with modern contemporary dance because it feels so natural to him.

“With modern contemporary dance, you get into more issues, more real things!”

As Sir Brock evolved, always there in the background cheering him on and guiding him was his mother Doris Warren also known as Ms. Tiki, the true wind beneath his wings.

The genesis of ‘Journey To Greatness’

“Journey” started out as an inspirational hash tag that Sir Brock used for several years. However, he tried several different titles that were longer until he made up his mind. Everything else artistically started falling into place.

“I started creating the music. I got with Nico Warren and Ryan Copeland and they started making the sounds. I worked on those sounds. Then I started writing lyrics. OK, I had my music, time to get into the studio. So I get in the studio with the dancers and we had a month to shape the movement.”

He explained that after he gave the dancers their generic dance routines, he wanted them to be creative and make the dance routines their own by improvising. One of the dancers and a recent PCCA graduate, Symone Ferguson, said that the rehearsals and consultations with Sir Brock helped her connect with her art form in a much more personal and deeper way than ever before.

“It was no longer just a set group of dance routines to execute; the question was what was being said and felt artistically as I performed,” said Ferguson at the end of the show.

 As the show drew closer to its debut, Sir Brock worked with Sharon Scott and Bob Devin Jones to make Studio@620 more adaptable to what he was ultimately trying to accomplish.

“We tried to make the space more performance art verses a performance,” he said.

In essence, he aimed to move the audience to the point that they become a part of the performance instead of just being a passive group of observers. Just as skillfully as he symbolically translated the evolution of his life as a multi-talented artist, Sir Brock created a performance tapestry whereby the audience could evolve as well.

“The concept of the show was to empower people to live masterfully,” he finished.

The standing ovation, cheers and shrills at the end of “Journey” was an affirmation that Sir Brock Warren had masterfully achieved his goal.

“Journey To Greatness” was funded through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

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