Dance to Freedom


Brian J. Evans lives his life by working hard and diving into it. As a citizen artist, he combines his passion for dance with his dedication to social justice in his graduate work at the University of Washington. “Right now I’m working in a program geared toward taking my experiences in the field and finding a way to be of service in the academic world,” he says. “Art works because it connects to our human capacity to love. If I can in any way, shape, or form get at that with the people I interact with, that’s what it means to make my life count. It makes it worth putting my whole being into.”

Brian didn’t come into dance as a child standing at the barre, instead he hustled on the field as a football player and took an elective Modern Dance class as an undergraduate at Gustavus. His professor, Maria Gomez Tierny pulled him aside and said, you should do this. “She gave me a way into it,” Brian says. “She said, you should just dive into it. At the same time I discovered dance, I discovered social justice work.”

Art works because it connects to our human capacity to love.

After diving into dance Brian joined I Am, We Are, the College’s social justice theatre group led by Professor Amy Seham, and it all came together. “This group helps blur the lines between an individual and community,” Brian says. “I Am, We Are helps you create responsibility for your place in the community you’re in.”

Another important influence on Brian was head football coach Jay Schoenebeck. “You can ask my mom how he brought the words I love you back into your family,” he says. “After the game he told the players to tell their families they loved them and to thank them for sending us to Gustavus. All of these different aspects of Gustavus feed into what I’ve been able to do post undergrad.”

Gustavus gave Brian the time and space to build confidence and self worth. “I was fortunate to develop a certain amount of awareness while there. It was safe. Now I’m this 200-pound black man walking down the street in Seattle. You don’t have the time to unpack your whole life story and tell someone you’re a dancer. From the get-go the arts helped me—it offered a space where I could step on stage and transform into anything, then I could start to rearrange for them and myself what that story means.”

After graduating from Gustavus with a degree in Theatre & Dance, Brian served eight years as principle dancer and musical director for Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater. He taught in public and private institutions, and worked with healthcare providers in the U.S. and abroad, as well as with youth in the Greater Twin Cities communities. He considers himself a professional performing human and sings and works in spoken word as well as movement. A recipient of a prestigious 2015 McKnight Fellowship, he investigates the idea that connections exist between us all and it’s the responsibility of the Arts to rediscover those connections, and highlight them to allow us to feel holistically safe.

Brian J. Evans - Professional dancer, MFA candidate - University of Washington
Dance to Freedom
Brian J. Evans
Gustavus Class of 2007
Professional dancer, MFA candidate - University of Washington