Mission & History

Written by Toyce Francis

Mission Statement 
 
The mission of Evidence is to promote understanding of the human experience in the African Diaspora through dance and storytelling and to provide sensory connections to history and tradition through music, movement, and spoken word, leading deeper into issues of spirituality, community responsibility and liberation.
 
Overview

Founded by Ronald K. Brown in 1985 and based in Brooklyn, New York, Evidence, A Dance Company focuses on the seamless integration of traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and spoken word. Through work, Evidence provides a unique view of human struggles, tragedies, and triumphs. Brown uses movement as a way to reinforce the importance of community in African American culture and to acquaint audiences with the beauty of traditional African forms and rhythms. He is an advocate for the growth of the African American dance community and is instrumental in encouraging young dancers to choreograph and to develop careers in dance.
 
Brown’s choreography is in high demand.  He has set works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Cleo Parker Robinson Ensemble, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Jennifer Muller/The Works, Jeune Ballet d’Afrique Noire, Ko-Thi Dance Company, Philadanco and others. He choreographed Regina Taylor’s award-winning play, Crowns and won an AUDELCO Award for his work on that production.  “I hope that when people see the work, their spirits are lifted. I am interested in sharing perspectives through modern dance, theater and kinetic storytelling. I want my work to be evidence of these perspectives,” says Brown.
 
Evidence now tours to some 25 communities in the United States and abroad.  The company has traveled to Cuba, Brazil, England, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa and Canada to perform, teach master classes and conduct lecture/demonstrations for individuals of all ages. Evidence brings arts education and cultural connections to local communities that have historically lacked these experiences. Annually the company reaches an audience of more than 25,000.
 
Artistic Background

Ronald K. Brown has been making dances since the second grade. Growing up in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York, he took classes in the Police Athletic League Dance Program and performed in his high school’s musicals. He studied extensively with Mary Anthony, whose technique includes a combination of Martha Graham and Hanya Holm. Brown’s first performance was held at Anthony’s studio, financed by three family members each donating $200 for staging and costumes. Early on he performed with Jennifer Muller/The Works, who along with Bebe Miller and Maguy Marin were hugely influential to his work.
 
Brown’s dances derive from his interpretation of the human condition and refer to numerous cultural sources. These sources include history, traditions, and dance forms from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, combined with kinetic storytelling, modern and urban dance movement. Through dance Brown explores the history of blacks in America and passes on African culture to a new generation. His stories and movement express traditional themes of community, ritual, and collective experience. He wants audiences to see commonplace subjects in new ways, to open their minds to new experiences, and to foster tolerance and spiritual growth. In Brown’s words, he wants his work to represent “all the information that has gone into us – the stories, the history. It is really the human experience.”
 
Brown selects dancers who interpret his choreography with an open, sharing spirit. He says, “It is a challenge to find dancers interested and willing to go beyond the façade. Classical lines are as essential in dance moves from Guinea as using the back in choreography from Haiti. The hip-hop culture is creating an openness and honesty about the way people live. Versatility is important, as is being able to go from one style to the next.” Music and text fuel Brown’s storytelling, and reflected in his programming is a broad range of musical forms from classical and world music to pop and hip-hop. Musical choices lend special meaning to the work. Upside Down, about a community in mourning is accompanied by a vocalist from Mali and music by Nigerian artist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Come Ye is inspired by the work of jazz singer Nina Simone and the events of September 11th. Grace, originally choreographed for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is a spiritual journey set to the music of Duke Ellington, Roy Davis, Jr. and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.