Jason Moran, jazz composer and pianist, along with his Bandwagon (currently bassist Taurus Mateen, and drummer Nasheet Waits) has been wowing the jazz-loving world for about 15 years now, often undertaking huge projects and collaborative ventures with dance companies. In 2010, Moran and the Bandwagon performed in Reynolds Theater with LINES Ballet; in 2015 the group is performing the same work, “Refraction,” as well as a suite of other pieces as part of choreographer Ronald K. Brown’s The Subtle One (2014). This performance is danced by Brown’s company, Evidence.
Brown’s choreography is memorable more for its joyous, warm-hearted flow than for singular stunning images or powerful storytelling. The narratives are emotional and non-verbal even when titles and program notes hint at particular histories, such as another section of The Subtle One entitled “RFK in the Land of Apartheid.” Brown’s work evokes a sense of gratitude. In the 30 years since he began his company, he’s been highly successful at asserting the rightful place of African-based movements and African-American style into modern dance.
Brown makes much use of reaching motions, and those that gather in. One feels not "struggle" but striving and growing and the including of all — a vital community, in fact, in motion on the stage. There’s usually a powerful element of spirituality, and the 1999/2004 dance that opens the concert is a particularly good example of this. Grace is the only one in which Brown himself dances. This hint that the on-stage part of his career is coming to its natural end is reason enough to see the concert tonight if you did not last night. All of his troupe excel at his style, of course, but no one matches Brown himself. He reaches a little higher, his long arms offer wider shelter, and his movements (stiff knees notwithstanding) have just a little more elasticity…and perhaps his heart is just a little bigger.
Both Grace and One Shot, three sections of which are included in this program, have been seen in this area before as Brown has been a regular at the American Dance Festival and other venues. This abbreviated version of One Shot (the title refers to photographer Teenie “One Shot” Harris, who documented black life in Pittsburgh in the mid-20th century) was not very satisfying, but it did include some marvelously sassy dancing sure to banish the winter blues.
This program, a presentation of Duke Performances, will be repeated on Saturday, February 21. For details, see the sidebar.