It’s hard for to believe that it was fifteen years ago that I had a lunch interview with Ronald K. Brown, discussing the twentieth anniversary of his Brooklyn-based troupe, EVIDENCE. Brown is now celebrating the company’s thirty-fifth anniversary with a special virtual evening at the Joyce, presented live from the empty theater over the institution’s online portal, JoyceStream. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Brown has been an integral part of the community since the beginning, giving back in numerous ways, strengthening that engagement during these difficult times. “For thirty-five years, the mission of EVIDENCE has been to promote understanding of the human experience in the African Diaspora through dance, music, history, and tradition to remind us of our individual and collective responsibility and liberation,” the company explains on its website. “The fact that art and social justice share a common foundation continues to push us forward in spite of the continuing turmoil of a global pandemic and nationwide protests against police brutality. Now more than ever we need each other and it is beneficial for us to find ways to call one another and see each other virtually, whenever we can. Social distance does not mean social disconnection. EVIDENCE continues to do the work that says: We know what’s right in our heart and we need to keep that front and center.”
In conjunction with the Joyce Theater Foundation, Northrop, DANCECleveland, and Cuyahoga Community College, EVIDENCE will present an evening of greatest hits, which will stream live from the Joyce stage on February 18 at 8:00 and be available on demand through March 4 at midnight. The program includes an excerpt from Grace, originally choreographed for Alvin Ailey in 1999, an exhilarating, rapturous work, filled with an innate, infectious spirituality, with music by Duke Ellington, Roy Davis Jr., and Fela Anikulapo Kuti, that celebrated its own twentieth anniversary at the Center for the Art of Performance UCLA this past November; 2003’s For You, a solo tribute to the late American Dance Festival codirector Stephanie Reinhart, set to a song by Donny Hathaway; 2016’s She Is Here, a solo for women, honoring teachers and mothers; the “Palo y Machete” introductory multimedia solo from 2007’s One Shot: Rhapsody in Black & White, inspired by the legacy of Pittsburgh photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris; the powerful “March” excerpt from 1995’s Lessons, set to the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (“All I’m saying is simply this: that all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Long as there is extreme poverty in this world, no man can be totally rich even if he has a billion dollars.”); and 2019’s Mercy, an emotional and moving work about justice and compassion set to Meshell Ndegeocello’s version of Oumou Sangare’s “Shirk.” The evening is dedicated to Brown’s longtime booking agent, Pam Green, who is retiring after more than twenty years with the company. In addition, Brown is holding monthly virtual community classes on March 6, April 3, and May 8 at noon; registration is $15 per class.