Ronald K. Brown named 2020 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award honoree

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BECKET — Choreographer Ronald K. Brown is the recipient of the 2020 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award.

He will be honored Saturday evening during Jacob's Pillow's free online gala, "Dance We Must: A Virtual Event Supporting Jacob's Pillow." An excerpt from his work, "Come Ye," performed at Jacob's Pillow in 2018, will be presented.

"Ron is an artist of great power who is being recognized for his vision and a signature vocabulary that is deeply grounded and visceral while also highly spiritual and transcendent," Jacob's Pillow executive and artistic director Pamela Tatge said Wednesday in a prepared statement. "In all of his works, Ron is there; a radiant human being who is deeply dedicated to dance as a means of transformation and action. I couldn't be more excited that he will be receiving this award."

During a telephone interview, Tatge said Brown is being honored for the "creative" work done through Evidence, his dance company of 35 years. She also cited his dance residencies in Pittsfield since 1996 and as recently as 2018, and singled out "Journey of the Great Mysteries," a project he did in 2015 during a residency at Williams College. The project involved Williams students and alumni, and community members from Pittsfield and Williamstown in an exploration of the role of the body in worship, belief systems and spiritual practice.

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"That program stands as a model of how a choreographer can intersect with a college and a community," Tatge said.

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"I'm honored beyond measure for this recognition from Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival," Brown said in a prepared statement. "I still remember all of the times Evidence has premiered works at the Pillow especially our first, 'Dirt Road' in 1994 and most recently 'New Conversations: Iron Meets Water' in 2018. I often tell students and mentees to 'work for the sake of the work, and not for the sake of the goal', and to find gratitude in every opportunity to share your purpose."

Founded in 1985 and based in Brooklyn, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence focuses "on the seamless integration of traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and spoken word," the Pillow announcement said. Evidence 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, reaching an audience of over 25,000 people annually.

The company first performed at Jacob's Pillow in 1994 in the Doris Duke Theatre, and participated in a community-wide residency in 1998-99. Evidence has returned for performances in 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2005 and most recently, in 2018, where the program included "New Conversations," a work developed in part through a residency at Jacob's Pillow. Other world premieres presented at the Pillow include "Water" (1999), "High Life" (2000), "Walking Out the Dark, Part II" (2002), and "Blueprint of a Lady: The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday" (2005).

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Brown has created over 100 works for Evidence, in addition to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Philadanco, and Ballet Hispanico, among others.

Complete information and registration for "Dance We Must" is available online at jacob'spilow.org.

Berkshire Eagle arts editor Jeffrey Borak contributed material to this article.


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