*“To Ronald K. Brown and all my friends at Evidence – Thank you so much for this singular honor, for gathering this afternoon to grace me with the Gatekeeper Award For Lifetime Achievement. I must admit that Lifetime Achievement Awards make me a little nervous. Just a nice way to say, ‘Hey, you’re getting kinda old here, Ruby?’ And it’s true: I am getting kinda old, thank God – I’ll be 90 come October!”
Those were the eloquently expressed comments from renowned actress, playwright, activist and philanthropist Ruby Dee who could not attend and accept the award in person — under doctor’s orders — as read by Susan L. Taylor, Essence Magazine editor-in-chief emeriti and founder & CEO of National Cares Mentoring.
In her profound closing remarks Dee went on to laud her mother and how proud she would have been of her newest honor. “And so, with gratitude to my mother, and in her name, I accept this award. In her name, I celebrate and anticipate future generations of Evidence dancers. In her name, I send prayers of thanksgiving and dances of praise to Ronald K. Brown and all the True Believers. You make my heart dance!”
The moving words garnered tears of joy and raucous applause from nearly 300 well groomed guests who attended Evidence, A Dance Company’s 9th Annual “On Our Toes”… In The Hamptons summer benefit on Saturday, August 18, 2012 on the grounds of the Hayground School in tony Bridgehampton, New York. The event raised over $20,000 and still counting.
Funds raised will benefit the dance company’s outreach programs and provide full benefits for dancers. The internationally-acclaimed Evidence, A Dance Company — Arcell Cabuag, Shayla Coldwell, Maresa D’Armore-Morrison, Coral Dolphin, Solomon Dumas, Otis Donovan Herring, Clement Mensah, Annique Roberts & Clarice Young — is under the direction of founder and artistic director. Brown, a world-renowned choreographer of Tony Award-winning The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and 2012 recipient of the Fred and Adele Astaire Award for outstanding choreographer in a Broadway show.
During a convivial cocktail hour, guests enjoyed signature cocktails and fine wines courtesy of Belvedere Vodka while noshing on an array of scrumptious appetizers catered by Harlem’s famed 5 and Diamond Restaurant which specializes in modern American foods with a Spanish influence. Following cocktails, guests gathered together in an enormous tent replete with white lounge chairs and sofas and high tables for the awards presentation, live auction, a light dinner, dessert culminating in Evidence’s signature “Dancing with the Dancers.”
Evidence’s board secretary and newly appointed president of BRAG (blackretailactiongroup) Gail Monroe-Perry happily welcomed guests and thanked them for their continued support followed by an exhilarating performance by the company of “Walking Out The Dark,” a pulsating, rhythmic dance set to African music and chants that Brown dedicated to absentee honoree and his friend Dee.
Then event co-chair Lola C. West presented the 2012 visionary gatekeeper award to Jason Moran for his outstanding contributions to the jazz world. In accepting the award, the 37-year-old MacArthur “genius” fellow and musical adviser for jazz at the Kennedy Center expressed an interest in collaborating with Evidence, A Dance Company in the future.
The dance company closed the awards presentation with a stellar performance of “Better Days,” spectacularly choreographed by Brown, which pays homage to friends of the choreographer who have passed away and illustrates a nonlinear juxtaposition of present and past.
International financier Reginald Canal was joined by associate artistic director and dancer Arcell Cabuag and dancers Clarice Young and Annique S. Roberts in leading a “Bricks and Mortar” and live auction that raised almost $20,000 to support the dance company. Canal also served as event chair and artist, educator and activist Jon Snow, co-founder of the Hayground School, and financial advisor Lola C. West, managing director, WestFuller Advisors LLC served as co-chairs. Jenna Bond-Louden served as young patrons’ chair. This year’s “On Our Toes” . . . theme was a celebration of arts and culture from the African Diaspora and championed by corporate sponsors Belvedere Vodka, Prudential and Garvey Lundy Jewelry.
The benefit committee included Susan L. Taylor and Khephra Burns, Tamara Tunie and Gregory Generet, Lynn Whitfield, Maurice and Andrea DuBois, Reginald Van Lee, Zaid Abdul-Aleem, Alvin Adell, Monica F. Azare, Bershan Shaw Bradley, Marvet Britto, Tracy Davis, Joanne E. Hill, Leslie Mays, Gail Monroe-Perry, Joyce Mullins-Jackson, Larry Satterfield and Sabir Amen, Debra Simmons, Jocelyn Taylor, Margot Daniels Tyler, Dr. Ancy Verdier, Alexis Welch, and Nicole Winn.
Founded in 1985 by internationally-acclaimed choreographer Ronald K. Brown, Evidence, A Dance Company’s mission is to promote understanding of the human experience in the African Diaspora through dance and storytelling and to provide sensory connections to history and tradition through music, movement and spoken word leading deeper into issues of spirituality, community responsibility and liberation. For more information, please visit www.evidencedance.com.
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.