In 1985, at age of 18, Ronald K. Brown, the African-American choreographer, decided he wanted to form his own dance company. He had been told that "I had a good sense of movement, that my movement is original and new; they liked the things I was coming up with." But others in the dance world told him that he "was too young" to start a company and that he "should satisfy that dancer in me before I got hooked up and stuffed into choreographing."
Unabashedly Brown owns up to having an independent mind. "People offer their opinion, but they know I will continue to do what I want. I'll take their opinion and use as much of it as I want. The other stuff I'll shuck to a side for later use."
And so he went ahead and formed his dance company, Evidence, while dancing with Jennifer Muller/The Works.
When the Bedford-Stuyvesant native attended Brooklyn's Edward R. Murrow High School, he was. among other activities, on the school paper and appeared in several school productions. "By the time my junior year came around, I was toying with the idea of being a dancer. I decided to graduate a year early and go up to Vermont, to St. Michael's to study journalism. I auditioned at Mary Anthony's [Dance Studio] for a scholarship that June. I was kind of shocked [when I won it]. I told my mom that I wasn't going to go to college after all. I was going to stay in the city and dance."
Says Brown of his choreography: "I wish my audience to give up coming to figure out the story, to not look to be entertained, but to trust themselves and go ahead and travel with me through a more emotional connection."
As one critic pointed out, "He comments on his being black and makes allusions to his sexuality." For example, "Evidence" speaks about a young man who tries to fit into white society, but comes to the realization, explains Brown, that "all the chemicals in the world, all the color contacts are not going to do it."
Many of his dances are to some extent autobiographical and, says Brown, have "touched people universally. When you present art very specific to your heart, to your life, that's when people relate to it."
This article originally appeared in The New American, a New York-based African-American weekly newspaper, on November 1, 1990. It has been slightly edited.