Ron K. Brown: Where Struggle Meets Spirituality
If you are looking for juicy movement carried on cross-cultural currents, there’s no choreographer more satisfying than Ronald K. Brown. When he dances, a force seems to lift him upward but also keep him close to the Earth. Chalk it up to the African-infused vocabulary that comes naturally to him. He’s trained his company to dance with the same commitment, but to my eye, no one dances quite like Brown himself.
So, for a special treat during the 30th anniversary of his company Evidence, which starts today, he is performing a solo, Through Time and Culture, made last year.
Ron K. Bown's Evidence in The Subtle One, photo by Ayodele Casel.
In this feature story, written during Evidence’s 25th anniversary, Karyn Collins traces Brown from a little boy who made his first dance after seeing an Ailey performance, to the 18-year-old who started his own company, to the sought-after choreographer he has become. She also talks to the dancers about how they transfer the "gumbo' of global dance forms that reside naturally in his body to their bodies.
This video collage of his work over time shows his dancers performing his movement—deliciously—plus a short clip of his own dancing. Like gospel music, his choreography is guided by both struggle and spirituality.
In this "Choreography in Focus," which Ron and I shot in 2012, he talks about admiring Mary Anthony’s dances because they were “about people." He also describes how he got the entire cast of the Broadway musical Porgy and Bess up on their feet dancing—for which he won an Astaire Award. He even added a scene that helped define Broadway star Audra McDonald’s character through movement.
One thing is sure: Of all the choreographers whose companies have made it to 30, Ron Brown is the youngest.
Evidence brings two programs to the Joyce, February 24 to March 1. For tickets, click here.
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.
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