More than 20 years ago, the dancer Arcell Cabuag peeked into a studio at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and fell in love. It wasn’t romantic love, but a rarer kind — dance love. Without knowing exactly what he was looking at, he had found his choreographer: Ronald K. Brown.
Mr. Brown’s choreography blends modern dance with African traditions, like West African and Afro-Cuban dance, to create a mix both earthy and spiritual. Beginning Feb. 6 at the Joyce Theater, Mr. Brown will pay homage to Mr. Cabuag’s 20th anniversary as a member of his company, Evidence, by creating a new duet featuring the two of them, “Den of Dreams.”
Mr. Cabuag, now 43, was a scholarship student at Ailey from California when he discovered Mr. Brown, 51, at the Ailey studios, then on 61st Street in Manhattan. When he found out that Mr. Brown would be holding auditions for a workshop with advanced students, he was hopeful until he learned that he didn’t qualify to audition.
At that time, Mr. Cabuag was still trying to catch up. He caught the dance bug late, during his senior year of high school in San Jose, and had more experience in jazz and tap than in modern dance. He was trapped in ballet class when Mr. Brown’s audition happened.