Message from the Artist: Ronald K. Brown on Grace@20

Grace, the dance was commissioned and performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and premiered in 1999 NY City Center. The work became a part of the Evidence, A Dance Company Repertory in 2001. The Grace@20 Workshop gives participants a chance to view the work, learn some of the movement from the piece and have a conversation to learn how each of us thinks of grace in our lives and work.

When Judith Jamison, former Artistic Director of AADT, contacted me to discuss the possibility of me creating a work on Ailey there were several immediate responses.  One was the memory of going on a school trip to see the Ailey Company when I was in the 2nd grade and going home and making a dance.  I also remembered my mother taking to a dance studio at Bedford-Stuyvesant Corporation in Brooklyn, NY after that trip and I recall my 8 year old self telling my mom “there are 80 girls.”  There weren’t but as the only guy I felt that way and did not think dance was a serious option for me until I began studying seriously at 16.  I found Evidence in 1985 and believed that I needed to make space for Evidence, the kind of work that I believed was my purpose to create.  After speaking to Ms. Jamison, my heart was full and I wondered how do I say thank you to Mr. Ailey, a choreographer and legend who inspired my first work when I was a child and who let me know, through his work and example,  that it was possible and necessary to have a dance company that reflected the human condition.

I knew that Mr. Ailey was fond of Duke Ellington, so I turned to Ellington’s Sacred Concerts and  discovered over a hundred versions of Come Sunday, a song that became the opening and closing of Grace. During the Grace@20 Workshop participants will learn about the other music that is in Grace and the reasons for their inclusion in the piece.  For the 20th Anniversary of Grace the Evidence performed the work for the first time with live music and an expanded cast at Bard College in July 2019.

I look forward to the screening of Grace, the movement classes and the conversation, especially during these current times when so many of us are in search of grace.

—Ronald K. Brown