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Spring Dance Fest blooming at Emerson Cutler Majestic

Susan Saccoccia

A recipient of NEA Arts Journalism fellowships in dance, theater and music, Susan reviews visual and performing arts in the U.S. and overseas.

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Spring Dance Fest blooming at Emerson Cutler Majestic
Malpaso Dance Company performing Azure Barton’s “Stillness in Bloom.” PHOTO: IVO ROBERTO BAELLI

Global Arts Live has turned its Winter Dance Fest into a Spring Dance Fest, recasting a January trio of stellar dance performances cancelled due to the pandemic into a three-evening series that runs from June 2 through June 5 at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre.

The first of these eagerly awaited shows features contemporary tap ensemble Dorrance Dance. On June 2, Michelle Dorrance, a 2015 MacArthur Fellow, and her sensational company will perform the Boston premiere of their new evening-length work, “SOUNDspace,” an exploration of movement as music. 

Dorrance Dance PHOTO: STEPHANIE BERGER

Next, on June 4, comes choreographer and dancer Ronald K. Brown and his company Evidence. Founded in 1985 by Brown when he was 19, Evidence performs works that plumb the spirit with a storytelling style that mingles African, Caribbean and American dance club moves.

Evidence will present the Boston premiere of Brown’s “The Equality of Night and Day,” a work co-commissioned by Global Arts Live. Its soundtrack combines original music by jazz pianist Jason Moran and narration by activist and educator Angela Davis. This work completes a trilogy that includes “Mercy” (2019) and “Grace” (1999), which Brown choreographed for the Alvin Ailey Company and later added to the Evidence repertory. 

The program includes the Boston premiere of “Mercy,” a collaboration with composer Meshell Ndegeocello; and “Come Ye” (2002), a multimedia work inspired by the legacies of Nina Simone and Fela Kuti. Dancing in all three works is Demetrius Burns, Boston Arts Academy ’12 and Boston Conservatory ’16.

Concluding the series on June 5 is Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company. This Boston visit, its first since 2016, was originally planned for March 2020. But just as the dancers arrived from Cuba for three sold-out shows, Global Arts Live had to cancel all bookings due to the pandemic. The company was then scheduled to kick off the Winter series.

The Malpaso dancers will perform “Lullaby for Insomnia” by company cofounder Dailedys Carrazana, a solo to a song by iconic Cuban singer-pianist Bola de Nieve; and an extended version of “woman with water,” by Swedish choreographer Mats Ek. Its program also features “Stillness in Bloom” (2021) by Aszure Barton, an examination of isolation and longed-for reunions; and “Tabula Rasa” (1986), by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

Ronald K. Brown Evidence PHOTO: QUINN B WHARTON

Resilience is built into the DNA of dancers, who during the pandemic continue to deliver astounding performances, despite cancellations and occasional positive tests among company members that prompt agile shifts in programming. One recent example of this was the April return of Kyle Abraham and his company A.I.M. to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Due to a dancer’s illness, one of the evening’s two works was replaced by an onstage Q&A with Abraham. 

Dance as a live art form embodies moment-to-moment risk and vulnerability. Afflicted by a stroke in April 2021, Ronald K. Brown has kept a full season of bookings while progressing well in his recovery, guided by the same fortitude and faith with which he nurtures his company. Reflecting on their endeavors in his blog in June 2020, Brown wrote, “Our destination in the midst of unrest is truth, peace, and solidarity. Focus on what is right, continue to do the work, and keep love and truth at the front.”

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