Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence Dance Company, Program B

February 7, 2006

Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence Dance Company, Program B
Joyce Theater, New York, NY

February 7–12, 2006

Reviewed by Wendy Perron


From the first moment of action, an African-inflected sound and motion, perfectly integrated, graces the stage. In Come Ye (2003), one man falls out of a line to Fela Kuti’s first drumbeat, and we are enchanted. The eight dancers seem to skim the earth, not the way ballet dancers skim, but with limbs flinging in opposite direction, knees knocking together. Known for his seamless fusion of West African, Caribbean, and modern dance, Brown occasionally throws in an attitude turn or a stag leap. The music, in this case Nina Simone alternating with Kuti, is matched by the dancing in exuberance, complex rhythms, and richness of texture. A film montage including stills of heroes like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Angela Davis, and in the end, Nina Simone, intensifies the last lap of the dance and gives it a context of struggle.

Upside Down
(1998) is a bit more subdued, but with brighter costumes. An excerpt from the evening-length work Destiny, its peaceful mood is punctuated by playful boxing moves. A motif of all the dancers lifting one—Arcell Cabuag—recurs, heightening the sense of community. As with the rest of the evening, Brenda Gray’s sharply shaped lighting lent a dramatic edge to the dancing.

High Life
(2000) starts with a soundtrack of a dramatized slave auction and seems to travel through time. Old suitcases, hats, and ’40s-type dresses lend a melancholy Reconstruction Era air. Ron Brown, performing a bit under his usual glorious full-out dancing, does a gentle solo, beginning with a drop to the earth that could mean either “Praise to the Lord” or “God, am I exhausted.” Later the women become snazzy nightclub flirts. Camille Brown, a fabulous performer, turns sexy into funny and eccentric. Bravo!

All three pieces in this 20th-anniversary program tend to blend together in memory. All are group works that emphasize community and ritual. All use Kuti’s music at least in part. But Brown’s luscious movement is always intriguing, and the dancers pour their hearts and souls into it. The audience walks away feeling uplifted. See