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Born in Washington, D. C., Puanani Brown began her training at the Washington School of Ballet (WSB) when she was seven years old. A recipient of the Lisa Gardner Scholarship, Brown danced at the WSB for eight years under the direction of Mary Day. Coached by Patricia Berrend, Brown won the 2003 Carey Rose Winski Dance Scholarship Competition in Chicago, Illinois. At age 15, Brown was awarded the Gold Medal in the Women's Senior division at the YAGP Finals in New York.

In 2004, Brown was invited to dance at the School of American Ballet on full scholarship. Upon graduating from high school, Brown apprenticed with New York City Ballet for a year before beginning her undergraduate studies at Harvard College in 2008. Brown joined the Harvard Ballet Company where she was also a ballet mistress. In May 2009, Brown performed the opening of Balanchine's Serenade with Damian Woetzel and Yo-Yo Ma for the event Witness, at Harvard, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Having deferred her studies at Harvard College in 2009, she returned to New York to train with Darla Hoover at Ballet Academy East.

Brown's professional guesting repertoire consists of the Snow Queen in Mary Day's The Nutcracker, and the Pas de Trois in George Balanchine's Agon. While at SAB, Brown created roles choreographed by Benjamin Millipied, Christopher D'Amboise, Melissa Barak, Alexey Miroshnichenko, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and Olivier Wevers. With New York City Ballet, Brown performed ballets by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon.

Brown joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in March 2010.