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Bard SummerScape Presents Evidence, A Dance Company in World Premiere of Grace and Mercy

A New SummerScape Commission from Choreographer Ronald K. Brown – with Live Music by Meshell Ndegeocello and Others (July 5–7)

Mark Primoff

Image Credit: Matt Karas
“Mr. Brown’s meshing of African and modern dance is like an electrical charge.” – New York Times

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY: Evidence, A Dance Company and its founder and artistic director, Ronald K. Brown, make their Bard SummerScape debut with the world premiere of Grace and Mercy. A new SummerScape commission, this two-part program opens with Grace (live), a newly conceived version of Brown’s soulful masterpiece Grace, originally created in 1999 for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, where it is still one of the most popular works in the repertory today. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Grace will for the first time be danced entirely to live music, performed by house and R&B artist Peven Everett and others. Evidence completes its double-bill with the world premiere of Mercy, Brown’s new companion piece to Grace (live), which is set to a brand-new score written and performed live by ten-time Grammy-nominated rock/soul singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello. Grace and Mercy’s three performances take place on July 5–7 in the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center on Bard College’s glorious Hudson River campus. Click here to see a short sample of Ronald K. Brown/Evidence’s work.

Performed by Evidence company members and guest artists Michael Battle, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Arcell Cabuag, Coral Dolphin, Valeriane Louisy Louis-Joseph, Hannah Richardson, Annique Roberts, Keon Thoulouis, Jiamond Watson, and Patrick Wright, Grace and Mercy features design by two of Brown’s long-time collaborators, with sets and lighting by Tsubasa Kamei and costumes by Wunmi Olaiya. Joining Ndegeocello and Everett are an ensemble of seven musicians, including three members of Ndegeocello’s band: Chris Bruce on guitar, Abraham Rounds on percussion, and Jake Sherman on keyboards.

Using movement to promote community in African American culture and acquaint audiences with the beauty of traditional African rhythms and forms, Ronald K. Brown, whose string of honors includes an Astaire Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship, is one of contemporary choreography’s most important voices. He has created numerous works for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Ballet Hispánico, and many others, as well as for Evidence, A Dance Company, which he founded in 1985. Known for its seamless integration of traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and spoken word, Brown’s Brooklyn-based company has appeared throughout the United States as well as elsewhere in the Americas, Africa, and Europe. Dance magazine observes:

“Evidence has become a mainstay in the modern dance world and Brown is now considered a vanguard among choreographers fusing Western contemporary dance with movement from the African diaspora.”

The New York Times identifies the hallmarks of Brown’s work as the following:

“Deep, spiritual seriousness. A sophisticated mastery of stage space. Music that makes you want to move. A vocabulary, drawn from many parts of the African diaspora, that Mr. Brown has developed into a personal language that’s flexible, richly expressive and irresistibly kinetic.”

As the paper marvels: “If there is any company working today whose dancers pack a more sophisticated and vibrant kinetic punch than those of Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, I can’t think of it.

Grace (live)
Blending modern dance and West African idioms to depict a spiritual journey to the promised land, Grace is a “1999 classic” in which “the fireball intensity of the dancers … is astounding, something to be sensed as well as seen” (New York Times). As in many of Brown’s works, the work’s movement alternates fluidly between extremes, a serene solo for an angelic figure giving way to the whirling and pounding of multiple dancers reminiscent of urban warriors. Brown’s varied musical choices reflect his vision for the piece. Duke Ellington’s jazz standard Come Sunday provides spiritual grounding, Fela Kuti’s Afro-Pop beats evoke West African and African American traditions, and Roy Davis’s ethereal dance hit Gabriel conjures a contemporary yet timeless ambience. Gabriel was produced in collaboration with Peven Everett, who sang and played trumpet and keyboards on its original 1996 release. “One of the most understated, energised and passionate singers around” (BBC Music), Everett serves as lead vocalist and music director for Bard’s world premiere presentation of Grace (live).

To complement Grace (live), Evidence gives the first performances of Mercy, which Brown created especially for SummerScape 2019. A companion piece to Grace, Mercy blends movement and music to lead both the performers and audience on a journey toward compassion and the joy of redemption. Brown explains:

“When I think of ‘mercy’ as the ‘forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within their power to punish or harm,’ I am also charged with the desire to express how we can offer compassion to each other. It’s been a great and joyous challenge to see how the two dances on the program embody these strong emotions with the destination being a state of liberation, bliss and peace. I look forward to sharing the gifts of the dancer’s artistry.”

Mercy’s original score is the work of singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello – “a visionary and a sensualist who sings with notes of honey, molasses and tar” (New York Times) – who will be on hand to perform its world premiere. Ndegeocello’s music draws on an array of influences, including funk, soul, R&B, hip-hop, reggae, rock, and jazz. In sync with Brown’s work, it is bound by a lyrical, spiritual search for love, justice, respect, resolution, and happiness. Her 1996 release Peace Beyond Passion was named one of NPR’s “150 Greatest Albums Made by Women,” and her most recent recording, Ventriloquism, scored the artist her tenth Grammy nomination.

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SummerScape has long produced and premiered significant dance productions, including commissions from choreographers Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Bill T. Jones, John Heginbotham, and Mark Morris. Last season’s world premiere of Four Quartets, commissioned from choreographer Pam Tanowitz, composer Kaija Saariaho, and visual artist Brice Marden to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of T.S. Eliot’s iconic poem cycle, was named the “Best Dance Production of 2018” by the New York Times, which pronounced it “the greatest creation of dance theater so far this century.”
To download high-resolution photos of Grace and Mercy, click here.
Grace and Mercy is commissioned by Bard SummerScape and the Fisher Center, the Joyce Theater, the Kennedy Center, and Carolina Performing Arts at UNC Chapel Hill.
Dance at Bard SummerScape 2019

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company
Grace and Mercy
World premiere of SummerScape commission

Choreography by Ronald K. Brown
Original music for Mercy written and performed by Meshell Ndegeocello
Music from Grace performed live by Peven Everett and others

Scenic and lighting design: Tsubasa Kamei
Costume design: Wunmi Olaiya
Sound design and engineering: Dave Wegner

Evidence, A Dance Company
Michael Battle, Kirven Douthit-Boyd*, Arcell Cabuag, Coral Dolphin*, Valeriane Louisy Louis-Joseph, Hannah Richardson*, Annique Roberts, Keon Thoulouis*, Jiamond Watson*, and Patrick Wright

* Guest Artist, Evidence

Sosnoff Theater

Thursday, July 5 at 8pm* (with opening-night reception for members)
Friday, July 6 at 8pm (with post-performance conversation)
Sunday, July 7 at 2pm* (with pre-performance conversation at 1pm)

Tickets: $25 to $95

* Round-trip bus service from Manhattan is provided exclusively to ticket-holders for the performances on July 5 and 7. A reservation is required, and may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900 or by selecting this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40, and the coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at:

SummerScape 2019: other key performance dates by genre

Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: Korngold and Vienna (Aug 9–11)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: Korngold in America (Aug 16–18)

Music by Michael Gordon
Libretto by Deborah Artman
Directed by Daniel Fish
Conducted by David Bloom ’13, GCP ’15
LUMA Theater
July 11, 12*, 18, 19 & 20 at 8pm
July 13, 14*, 17, 20 & 21 at 2pm
Tickets: $25 to $75

Opening Night Reception for Members: Friday, July 12
Pre-Performance Conversation: Sunday, July 14 at 1pm
Post-Performance Conversation: Wednesday, July 17

“Korngold and the Poetry of Cinema”
Ottaway Film Center
July 25: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt & William Dieterle, 1935, USA)
July 28: Captain Blood (Michael Curtiz, 1935, USA)
August 1 at 7pm: The Ancient Law (E.A. Dupont, 1923, Germany)
August 4 at 7pm: Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophuls, 1948)
August 8 at 7pm: Treasures of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948, USA)
August 11 at 7pm: The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956, USA)
August 15 at 7pm: The Sea Wolf (Michael Curtiz, 1941, USA); King’s Row (Sam Wood, 1942, USA)
August 18 at 7pm: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968, USA)
Tickets: $10

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Miracle of Heliane (“Das Wunder der Heliane”)
American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein
Directed by Christian Räth
Sosnoff Theater
July 26* at 7:30pm
July 28* & 31; August 4* at 2pm
August 2* at 4pm
Tickets: $25 to $125

Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 26
Opera Talk with Leon Botstein Sunday, July 28 at noon

Live Music, Cabaret, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon
Dates, times, and ticket prices vary

Bard SummerScape ticket information

Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit

SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region. Some chamber programs and other BMF events are in Olin Auditorium, and the Spiegeltent has its own schedule of events, in addition to serving as a restaurant, café, and bar before and after performances. Film Series screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.

New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:
To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at:

Full Schedule:
For a complete schedule of SummerScape and Bard Music Festival events (subject to change), follow the links given below. Updates are posted at the festival web site
Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center’s email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates.

Bard SummerScape:

Bard Music Festival:

Tickets and Subscriptions:; or by phone at 845-758-7900. Tickets to all mainstage events start at $25.

Subscription Offers:
Create Your Own Series:
   Save 25% and enjoy maximum flexibility, by choosing four or more events.
SummerScape Mainstage Package:
   Save 30% and guarantee seats for dance, theater, and opera events.
Dining Packages:
   Out-of-Town Package:
      Save $30 on a mainstage ticket, roundtrip bus from New York City, and three-course meal.
   Night Out Package:
      Save $20 on a mainstage ticket (selected performances only) and three-course meal.

Updates: Bard’s “e-subscribers” get all the news in regular updates. Click here to sign up, or send an e-mail to

All programs are subject to change.

The 2019 SummerScape season is made possible in part through the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Board of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, the Board of the Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center members, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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This event was last updated on 06-18-2019