Entertainment » Theatre

Evidence, Choreographer Ron K. Brown's Company, Tours with Mix of New and Old

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Dec 13, 2017
Ronald K. Brown's dance company Evidence in performance.
Ronald K. Brown's dance company Evidence in performance.  (Source:Julieta Cervantes)

After a long absence, choreographer Ron K. Brown brings his dance company Evidence to Philadelphia with a wide-ranging dance concert in performances at NEXTMOVE Dance series at the Prince Theater.

Brown is a Guggenheim Award winner (2000) who choreographs in many genres that often incorporates modern aesthetic with authentic dance artistry from West African and Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Brown founded his troupe in 1985, in his hometown of Brooklyn NY and his core company of eight dancers have training and background in various dance disciplines.

Brown divides his time running the company, which tours in the U.S. and internationally much of the year, and as an in-demand choreographer who has created ballets for numerous contemporary companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), Ballet Hispanico, Malpaso Dance and, most notably for area fans Philadanco, whose founding director (and legend) Joan Myers Brown first commissioned him in the 90s.

Brown said he will also be guest teaching at the Philadanco studios in West Philly while his company is here this week. As it turns out Philadanco and Evidence will be competing just blocks from each other this weekend, with Evidence's tour and Philadanco home season running concurrently.

"Philadanco is one of those company where the fire and intensity is always there. The opportunity that Joan has given me has been such a wonderful, creative relationship," Brown said during an interview at the African American Museum earlier this month (where he was teaching outreach dance education classes) and took five to talk about his the upcoming NEXTMOVE program.

Ronald K. Brown  (Source:Julieta Cervantes)

The troupe will premiere "New Conversations: First Look" (2017) the latest version of the ongoing collaboration between Brown with jazz composer Auturo O'Farrill and his Afro Jazz Latin Ensemble. In 2014 O'Farrill created "Four Corners" for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. "I met Auturo in Havana, where he was working with Malpaso Dance," Brown recalled, "I loved his music and he liked what I had previously choreographed for their company. He later recommended me (to choreograph) for the company working on an Afro-Cuban version of Carmen."

AAADT artistic director Robert Battle has called Brown's work with O'Farrill unique both musically and choreographically.

"New Conversations" has been in development, both musically and choreographically, since last spring. Brown admitted that they are right up to the wire for the latest version to be danced in Philly. "There are now five sections now, so it still is officially a work-in-progress. We added more just yesterday," he said.

"Four Corners" will also be danced in the NextMove program in Philly. It is a work that Brown is particularly proud of because it features spoken word lyrics by recording artist Carl Hancock Rux, who he has known since they were in college. Brown was headed for a career in journalism, but turned down a scholarship, switch creative gears as a choreographer and dance-theater director.

Also on the program is Brown's 2013 piece "Torch" that is dedicated Beth Young, a dance student and dear friend, who died after a long battle with cancer. Brown remembered that, "She fought cancer for 15 years, had two hip replacements and kept fighting. She showed up for class, even when chemo would be kicking her butt," Brown recalled, "so, I needed to do something to celebrate this woman, who was this incredible dance warrior."

Rounding out the bill Brown's 1996 work "Ebony Magazine: To A Village" scored to music by singer-fashion designer Wunmi Olaiya, who worked with the 90s pop group Soul2Soul. The piece explores cultural perceptions of beauty and aesthetics between Black American Culture and its African counterparts. Dance legend Judith Jamison, then director of the Ailey company, was so moved by the piece, that she commissioned Brown's to choreograph "Grace" in 1999, which has since become one of AAADT's signature ballets.

Brown credits his dancers and artistic staff for balancing out his roles as artistic director and being a full-time choreographer and teacher. He is also working in musical-theater, most recently Brown choreographed the Tony Award-winning 2012 Broadway revival of "The Gershwins Porgy & Bess" for which he won the Fred and Adele Astaire Award for Outstanding Choreographer for a Broadway Musical. He is also choreographer for an upcoming musical "The Harder They Fall" based on the life and music of Jamaican reggae singer-composer Jimmy Cliff.

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence runs December 14-17 at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St., Philadelphia PA. For further information, visit the Prince Theater website or call 215.422.4580.

For upcoming dates for Ron K. Brown's dance company "Evidence," visit the company's website.

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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