Ronald K. Brown/Evidence

‘High Life,’ ‘Walking Out the Dark,’ ‘For You,’ ‘Come Ye’

by Holly Messitt

October 25, 2003 -- Joyce Theater, New York

If the best thing I can say about the production from Ronald K. Brown/Evidence at the Joyce Theater is that the lighting was fantastic, that would be saying much. Brenda Dolan’s lighting reflects the sense of spiritual quest for which Brown’s choreography has become known. In “Walking Out the Dark,” the lighting captures what some might call the aura of the dancer – that energy of light that surrounds all living creatures – and the bodies glow with it.

But the lighting is only part of the story. The dancing from the company’s nine dancers certainly takes center stage. The evening began with “High Life,” a journey, shown visually at the beginning of the piece by using suitcases as props. We travel with Brown and his dancers from slavery, the dancers in housedresses for the women and suspended trousers for the men, through the jazz age (when the dancers dress up, the women in strapping red dresses), and the 1970s (dancers in shiny satin clothing). The movement is at first halting and anticipatory, then finally an all-embracing high energy celebrates the process of the journey.

The middle two pieces deal most directly with grief. In “Walking Out the Dark,” after an initial narrative about truth and darkness, four dancers appear on stage dancing in a circle, knees turned out. Rhythmic drums and chanting call forward the celebration of the community, but the movement reminded me of release: release from the grief or release despite the grief. Brown dances alone with a memorial carnation to the side of the stage in “For You,” the New York premier of Brown’s memorial to Stephanie Reinhardt, co-founder of the American Dance Festival. He often curls his body into the fetal position, mourning. Then he spins that position into a turn he never quite finishes.

“Come Ye,” a world premier, features the music of Nina Simone and Fela Kuti. The energy runs high throughout the performance. Perhaps the most interesting moment of the piece is the opening image in which we see only the silhouettes of the dancers in their white tee shirts, shining as the brightest objects on the stage. The music is at first bluesy, but when the dancers exit and then return, the upsurge in energy of the music supports the additional energy of the dancing and ends the night’s journey on a high note.

Edited by Jenai

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