Ronald K. Brown/Evidence | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ronald K. Brown/Evidence


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Ronald K. Brown's Come Ye is a celebratory work on a sorrowful subject: slavery. Inspired by artist-activists, his suite of dances is set to music by Nina Simone and Nigerian Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti; it ends with a video montage of American civil rights demonstrations and early figureheads of the movement, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali. In the final section the eight dancers make a gradual passage from one side of the stage to the other that suggests a return to Africa--especially given Kuti's propulsive rhythms and the choreography's African moves. What keeps the piece from being preachy is Brown's feeling for the music. The opening song, Simone's "Come Ye," is a gospel-tinged ballad whose pauses and drawn-out notes are echoed by bursts of movement alternating with stillness. When at one point in Simone's "Revolution" she stops the recording session to chide the musicians, one of Brown's performers dances to her words. Best is the final section, whose hypnotic, cumulative repetitions reflect those in the music, making the dancers' motions seem inevitable. Being dependent on the score can have its drawbacks, however: the insipid song that accompanies the solo For You (created for the late Stephanie Reinhart) makes the dancing look overwrought and insincere. Also on the program are Walking Out the Dark and Grace, the latter created by Brown for the Alvin Ailey company in 1999. Opens Thu 4/14, 8 PM. Through 4/16: Fri-Sat, 8 PM, Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300, $20-$24. Note: Brown and company members give a talk after the Thursday performance, Northwestern dance-history professor Susan Manning gives a talk at 7 PM Friday, and a party follows the Saturday performance. All are free to ticket holders.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rose Eichenbaum.

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