Dancer, choreographer, and Jacob's pillow awardee Ronald K. Brown is known for his innovative and community-oriented choreography. As head of EVIDENCE: A Dance Company, he has told stories of the African diaspora, mixing traditional African dances with contemporary music and staging. Here, he shares his process, philosophy, and visions of Imagine 2021:
What’s your creative process? How do you envision connecting past and present—both personally and more broadly—in your work?
When I get an idea for a piece, I begin to write down images that I think belong to the particular work and then I look for music to help me "dance out" these ideas. I improvise, with the dancers following me, for 45 - 60 minutes. I then look at the material that I have generated and start to assemble the phrases until I have a paragraph, a chapter, and then the final section or full piece. There is always a connection to ancestors in the work and when Evidence performs I make sure that the program includes repertory from different time periods so the audience is introduced to the history of EVIDENCE creatively. In my personal life I also make sure that I am acknowledging the ancestors with my actions and intentions. This priority also manifests in my life as an artist.
What about dance makes it an ideal platform to communicate and tell stories about the human condition?
Dance, for me, allows for a conversation to be shared heart to heart and spirit to spirit. Audiences get a chance to witness what is being expressed through movement and in turn see a reflection of themselves. This is one of the purposes of EVIDENCE.
Throughout your career you’ve also been a mentor and educator: Can speak on the importance of education in the arts, specifically dance?
We live in a culture, more and more, where individuals want everything quickly and sometimes without understanding the work and study required. I enjoy sharing the connections of social dance to traditional dance so that people understand the original source and to manage the assumption that a particular social dance is brand new without any connection.
The Festival’s theme this year is “Imagine.” What comes to mind for you?
When I think of the theme of this year's Festival "Imagine," I think of possibility...and work for the sake of the work, not the sake of the goal. Basically to dream with your eyes wide open. The artistic movement that I would like to inspire is to have people of all ages come together on a regular basis to dance, sweat, and create stories that make hearts smile.
See Ronald K. Brown during Festival 2021, June 18-27. More info coming soon.