Saturday (April 7) at 8 pm at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). $21-$37.50. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
RONALD K. BROWN/EVIDENCE choreography by Ronald K. Brown, through Saturday (April 7) at 8 pm at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). $21-$37.50. 416-973-4000.
ronald k. brown is black, he's gay and he lives in America. He's got issues. And he's not afraid to deal with them in his work.
"My dance isn't just entertainment," he says in a slow, thoughtful, poetic voice that suggests a sensuality that in his work rubs shoulders with African, ballet and high-energy hiphop-influenced moves.
Although his Premiere Dance Theatre gig, on till Saturday (April 7), marks the first time the Brooklyn-born dancer/choreographer has brought his acclaimed eight-member troupe to town, he's no stranger to the city. A couple of years ago he conducted a series of workshops for the Dance Immersion festival of Afro-Canadian dance.
Obviously, he likes reaching out, making connections between old and new cultures, discussing political ideas. All of which are present in his work, too.
Take Water, his 1999 piece about violence within minority groups. Brown says it applies to everything from black-on-black crime to dissing within the gay community.
"I think frustration and dissatisfaction make you end up wanting to diminish someone else," he explains on the phone from Ann Arbor, where he and his troupe, Evidence, are performing.
"It comes from the lack of a world view, so you don't really know how to operate in the world."
The piece, he says, "redirects the warrior nature that everyone has to a healing baptism process. It moves from anger and chaos to apology, love and acceptance."
Even while he mouths those words, though, he understands that dance has a power that goes beyond speech and intellect.
"The great thing about dance is that you're doing something that can't be written or really described in whole. Ideas are one thing, but when you walk into the studio, dance can get to the visceral emotion of something."
His new work, High Life, also on the bill, looks at the migration patterns of African Americans from the South to the North, and West Africans journeying from the village to the city.
Originally, he was going to structure the piece as two linear journeys, but decided to combine the two after hearing the musical connections between the two cultures.
"The chord sections, the way they use percussion, is so similar," he says about the music, which includes everything from Oscar Brown Jr. and the JBs (James Brown's band) to Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the Nkengas.
Brown sees his cultural research -- looking into art, dance, sound, fashion and movement -- as part of the job.
"I pull from everywhere," he says. "Social and club dances from the Ivory Coast and Senegal, the U.S., traditional dance forms, ballet, modern. Every technique I've ever encountered is up for grabs."
And while he's recently been crowned with mainstream laurels -- including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship last year -- Brown isn't about to put up his feet and relax in George Dubya's divided America.
"We're living in a world where things are totally unbalanced. Money and technology are winning way above the spirit. The liberation of people and feeding people seem secondary to progress.
"But it's all cyclical. We will deal with Mr. Bush for a little while. Anger is only useful if you channel it. Am I angry? Yeah. But it doesn't preoccupy me. I'm trying to work to make change."