Thomas Townsend BROWN, Jr
2017 Honorary Doctorate
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Mr Thomas Townsend Brown, Jr (Tom Brown), studied dance from the age of three. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Temple University, he embarked on a dance career. In Philadelphia, he danced with Group Motion, Zero Moving Dance Company, Philadelphia Dance Theater under José Limón’s directorship, and with South Street Dance Company under Anna Sokolow. In New York, he danced with Reka and Co/Dances, David Varney and Dancers, and post-modernist Rudy Perez, and regularly performed early morning shows of Doris Humphrey’s seminal Day on Earth for high school students in the city’s outer boroughs with the Daniel Lewis Dance Repertory Company. In 1979, with Reka Feketekuty, he founded Dance Junction, which presented works of young choreographers together with modern dance classics, and was its Artistic Director until 1985. He has choreographed over 40 works for concert stage, opera, musical theatre and drama, most recently for Lo King-man’s 2015 production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.
He began reconstructing dances from scores in the late 1970s and has staged over 100 productions to the acclaim of audiences and critics alike, including Clive Barnes (New York Post), Jennifer Dunning (New York Times), and Deborah Jowitt (Village Voice). Judith Chazin-Bennahum, in New York’s Dance Chronicle, wrote “A reconstruction of Doris Humphrey’s With My Red Fires by a large company from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts was surely one of the most scintillating and penetrating interpretations of this revolutionary 1935 Humphrey work I have seen.” The review in New York’s Dance Magazine declared the production “breathtaking”.
Mr Brown came to the Academy in 1985 as Principal Teacher of Modern Dance and rose through the ranks to become Head of Modern Dance, Associate Dean of Dance, and Dean of Graduate Education, before retiring in 2015. As Head of Modern Dance, he led the development of modern dance major coursework for the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree programme. In addition to works by Humphrey and Limón, he also secured the rights for students to perform choreography by modern dance and ballet greats including Merce Cunningham, Mikhail Fokine, Donald McKayle, Kei Takei, Paul Taylor, Charles Weidman, Helen Lai, Lin Hwaimin and Willy Tsao while also supporting and developing original works from Hong Kong.
As Dean of Graduate Education, Mr Brown led the development of Master of Fine Arts degree programmes in Cinema Production, Dance, Drama and Theatre and Entertainment Arts, as well as the Master of Music degree, overseeing their accreditation and unconditional re-accreditation and firmly establishing Academy graduate programmes. Innovative interdisciplinary courses and curricula that gave room for students to take electives outside their major study area were central features of the programme development. In 1992, Mr Brown initiated the Carl Wolz Dance Scholarship Fund, which awarded scholarships to Academy dance students until 2015, and from 1993 to 1995 he served as elected staff representative on the Academy Council.
Mr Brown’s community service work includes being an Executive Committee member of the Hong Kong Dance Alliance and a Steering Committee member of and Administrator for its first major project, Dance on ’97. This was an international dance festival that brought hundreds of local and international dancers, scholars, students, companies, organisations, academies, and audiences together for a week of performances, masterclasses, conferences, and meetings. From 1997 to 2006, he served as Chairman of the Hong Kong Dance Alliance and established the annual Hong Kong Dance Awards and the bi-monthly dance journal/hk, both of which are celebrating their 20th anniversary next year, as well as producing Hong Kong Dance Archive and Hong Kong Dance Festival 2006. Mr Brown has served as reviewer, examiner, facilitator, teacher, or choreographer for the following bodies: the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Hong Kong Education Bureau and Schools Dance Association Schools Dance Festival, the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Music and Dance Fund, the Asian Cultural Council, the Bauhinia Cup Awards, St. James’ Settlement, Hong Kong Red Cross/Red Crescent, the Arts with the Disabled Association, and the Hong Kong Association for Physically Handicapped and Able-Bodied. He is also Artistic Advisor of Hong Kong Dance Company.
Mr Brown’s writing has been published in anthologies, journals, conference proceedings and notably in Why They Dance: Narrations of Hong Kong Dance. A Bessie Schönberg Scholar with a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College and a Fellow of the International Council of Kinetography Laban, in 2007 Brown received a Commendation Certificate from the Secretary for Home Affairs “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the development of arts and cultural activities” and in 2015 he was the recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Hong Kong Dance Awards.