Ronald K. Brown and Evidence
Sunday Evening, February 13, 2011
From the moment that I found my seat in the theater, I could feel the electricity in the air. A selection of Stevie Wonder songs filled the room and it was difficult to sit still. I soon found out that if one is in need of a lift, either physically, emotionally or spiritually, one will find it just by watching Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence perform.
The recurring theme in three of the pieces that were presented on Sunday night seemed to be the formation of community, either on a journey to a holy place as in Ife/My Heart, or uniting in the face of fear as in Lessons: Exotica/To Harm The Dangerous or to make the world a better place, as in On Earth Together. As far as I’m concerned, today’s society can’t be presented with these themes often enough. I feel that it’s the only thing that will help us to get beyond our current condition.
In Ife/My Heart, the dancers are all dressed in white. As happened several times throughout the night, the dancers began by moving along the periphery of the stage in a procession. Three families are traveling to a destination of togetherness. The first is dressed in traditional African clothing while the other two groups are wearing more classic contemporary costumes and this left me wondering if Brown was deliberately contrasting the traditional with the contemporary as part of the story.
The dancing is so riveting, so alive, and so deeply anchored in the spiritual. Though the dancers begin moving in a somewhat reserved fashion, the intensity and the fire grows as the piece progresses. The footwork becomes faster, the jumps higher, until everyone in the audience is feeling the spirit.
For You was a tear jerker about love and loss, a solo performed by Ronald K. Brown to Donny Hathaway’s rendition of the Leon Russell composition A Song For You. The earthiness of Brown’s understated movement along with the raw power of the lyrics of the song took me completely by surprise and really broke my heart.
From the start of the concert, the audience’s energy was up as high as I’ve ever seen it at the Joyce, but when the Stevie Wonder songs which accompanied On Earth Together began to play, things went into overdrive. Some of the movement in this piece is a little more subdued. What I loved about it was that every little vignette or conflict within the dance seems to end unpredictably with forgiveness and compassion and a call to love, which was just so beautiful.
The evening was full of great movement and great grooves – you could almost feel the sense of community amongst the audience. Maybe it’s because the dances and dancers of this company reach their audience so directly on such a visceral level. When they dance, it’s as if all the intellectualizing and pretense in the world is instantly stripped away so that matters could be addressed with complete honesty, directly to the heart and soul.