Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE
Fri Nov 8, 2019
Music Center at Strathmore
Dance Review by Sylvana Christopher
To the Music Center at Strathmore to witness a DC favorite: Ronald K. Brown with the bonus of live Latin Jazz by The Arturo O’Farill Band. The balcony view of the stage gives one a sense of the magnitude of this performance venue. The usher boasted, “There is no bad seat in the house…the acoustics are amazing anywhere you sit”.
“New Conversations: Iron Meets Water” was an excellent and seamless pairing between Brown and O’Farrill. The sound of the live tuba scaling the heights of the Strathmore was marvelous and the trained Afro-Cuban dancer torso: to die for! Brown’s choreography blends Orishas movements stemming from the Yoruba people.
Flutters of the hands paint pictures like fans in church, standing in a long line on a hot day or seeing a stunner. Annique Roberts is defiant yet playful in her stance and utterly in command of the stage. Masterful transitions between soloist and groups plus beautifully designed colorful flowy costumes keep us engaged. The all-knowing gaze of the Keon Thoulouis on the high diagonal gives him a monolithic presence. With this piece the nuances of the conversation between movement and music stood out well.
“Walking out the Dark Act 1” opened up with poetic recorded the words “Dear sister this is your home”. A tone of reassurance guides the audience eye from corner to corner with one confrontation followed by another. A dancer claws back as if to withdraw from a catfight and reveals open palms while backing away as if to pass the torch. Aliyah Etheridge appeared to be an audience favorite with her cool moxy and elegant lines. In this work there seems to be no space for bullshit. Face to face, eyes to eyes or not at all.
Collecting and blading through time, “Grace” was a heart-thumping feel good piece. Delightfully, the audience when provoked returned with vocal praise for full out panache. The choice of “Words to Give By” by Roy Davis Jr. is an uplifting one though scratchy and dated in comparison to the clarity of the live O’Farrill music. Ending with Fela Kuti’s “Shakara” showcased effortless extensions and bounding stag leaps.
An engaging and entertaining evening, this spiritually rich dance-theater work from a revered choreographer comes with a distinct Afro-Latin soul. Brown’s signature style feels like a portal to a time when God felt closer.