Congratulations to Dance Magazine Award Honoree Ronald K. Brown
Choreographer Ronald K. Brown sees himself as a weaver—of movement, but more importantly, of stories. "When I started my company Evidence 33 years ago, I needed to make a space for what I thought of as evidence—work that tells stories, so that when people saw the work, they would see a reflection or evidence of themselves onstage," says Brown, now 51. "That was my mission, my purpose."
Fast-forward to today: Evidence has become a mainstay in the modern dance world and Brown is now considered a vanguard among choreographers fusing Western contemporary dance with movement from the African diaspora, including popular dance and traditions from West African cultures like Senegalese sabar.
The fusion comes naturally to Brown. "I just use this reservoir in my body and whatever comes out, comes out," he says. "I'm playing around now for an Ailey piece (The Call) and yes, there's an arabesque and some passés in there, but it's still coming out with my movement. I just let it flow."
Evidence, A Dance Company | BK Stories www.youtube.com
Brown's trademark style has garnered legions of fans in addition to numerous accolades. His relationship with the Ailey organization, for example, extends back more than 20 years, and the company calls his 1999 work Grace one of the most popular in its repertoire.
Other companies who have performed Brown's works include Philadanco, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and Ballet Hispánico. Brown has also choreographed for theater including for Regina Taylor's play Crowns, for which he earned an AUDELCO Award; and for Broadway's The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess, for which he received an Astaire Award.
"A lot of Ron's work is about loss, how losing somebody brings people together," says Arcell Cabuag, who's been dancing with Brown for 21 years. "Ron wants us to be completely open, where we're not thinking about steps. There's a huge amount of humility you have to have, where you just let everything go."
Brown says, ultimately, he tries to find ways to reflect what lies beneath people and their lives. "When I hear my audience say it feels real, that's the key."
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.