MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Contemporary dance sensation Ronald K. Brown brings his New York-based dance troupe, Evidence, to Middlebury College for performances at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, March 11-12, in the Center for the Arts Dance Theatre. While at Middlebury, Brown will also conduct a master class and an open rehearsal.
At each of the performances, Evidence will offer two pieces, one of which is Brown's new work, "Come Ye," inspired by the music and legacy of blues diva Nina Simone. "Come Ye" explores the themes of the legendary singer-songwriter's recordings, including activism, determination and liberation. The second work, "Walking Out the Dark," melds dance and prose in the form of poems and letters Brown wrote after his mother's death in 1996. The musical score for the second work was created by jazz artist Philip Hamilton, a 1982 graduate of Middlebury College.
Born in Brooklyn, Brown founded Evidence in 1985. Since then, the company has performed at numerous venues in New York, such as Performance Space 122, Dance Theater Workshop, and the Joyce Theater, as well as other locations and festivals across the United States and abroad, including the American Dance Festival and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.
The New York Times in 2002 called Brown "one of the most quietly profound choreographers of his modern-dance generation." The power of Brown's creations stem from his blending of cultures and styles. Evidence's trademark forms are a fusion of influences from the U.S., the Caribbean and West Africa; in interviews, Brown has cited Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Cuba and Western traditions, including ballet, as specific sources of inspiration.
"Evidence and Ron K. Brown were thoroughly original," wrote a reviewer at The Maui News. "It's as if Brown took every dance form .. and melded them into one exuberant, energetic and joyous style."
Through dance, Brown tells stories that touch on history, spiritual journeys, transformations, and diversity. "Keeping dance and art connected to people, making it an expression of our life and what people are going through is important," he said in an interview with the Ann Arbor News. "So is the cultural responsibility to allow voices not heard to speak. Dance is a form where the spirit speaks. I feel like we need that expression . as a society we're kind of starving for the spiritual expression."
Brown has also created work for other dance companies, such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, African American Dance Ensemble, and Philadanco. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographers' Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Choreography, a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie), and a Black Theater Alliance Award.
The performances are sponsored by several Middlebury College organizations: the Performing Arts Series, the Center for the Arts, the Department of Theatre and Dance, and the Committee on the Arts. It is also funded in part by the Expeditions Program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the state arts agencies of New England and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The open rehearsal with Brown and Evidence will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10, in the Center for the Arts Dance Theatre. It is free and open to the public. On Thursday, March 11, a master class with Brown is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the same location. At the master class, which is open to the public, attendees may observe or participate alongside Middlebury College dance students. Due to capacity considerations at the master class, pre-registration is required. To pre-register, call the Middlebury College Department of Dance at 802-443-5245.
The Middlebury College Center for the Arts is on South Main Street (Route 30). Tickets for the performances are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors. For tickets or information, call the College Box Office at 802-443-6433, or visit the College's Web site at www.middlebury.edu/arts.
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