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Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion at the American Dance Festival

by Alyssa Schoeneman
July 9, 2012
Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham, NC
A review of Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion's Tuesday, June 26, 2012 performance at the American Dance Festival
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.in.Motion's "The Radio Show" began in the audience; an oddly dressed man – he wore dress pants and a polo with the back cut out – sat in the theatre's center section, at times getting up to enthusiastically greet his fellow patrons. This man, who seemed at first glance to be a well-connected American Dance Festival (ADF) student, began to dance in the aisle as the music grew louder and he soon made his way onto the stage. This man, of course, was Kyle Abraham.

Once onstage, Abraham's demeanor transformed; the friendly audience member became a wise man with clear trepidations – toward what, it was difficult to determine so early in the piece. In this section Abraham moved at a slow gait, with highly articulate feet and a trembling hand, and introduced locking vocabulary that looked more like a chiropractic adjustment then a form of street dance. Abraham later tried to articulate something to the audience but appeared to choke on his words.

Despite these more brittle bits of choreography, Abraham's solo did not lack fluidity. Abraham moved in and out of the floor with ease, gracefully rolled through off-balance standing phrases and introduced his company's signature single-bent-leg leap. These movement characteristics continued throughout the evening-length work, each company dancer rivaling Abraham's solid physical execution.

"The Radio Show" had a tripartite structure; its three parts were labeled Preshow (Abraham's solo), AM 860 (Company) and 106.7 FM (Company). Each section had a dense musical score; from live ballads by Aretha Franklin to radio-dial spun snippets of Britney Spears and Beyonce, Abraham's work painted a picture of cultural change as the night progressed. In addition to popular songs, "The Radio Show" featured humorous clips from radio talk shows, a live Q&A session with audience members, and a fair share of static.

Inane societal norms and the idea of "selling out" were evident in the work's last section, and were each addressed with a humorous edge. After a brief segment of choreography, tinny Auto-Tuned melodies boomed through the speakers as live "radio personalities" allowed audience members to "Make or Break" songs by new artists. Formulaic song lyrics included words like "rims", "Shorty", "going to the club" and "drinking Patrón [tequila]". Dancers were later seen as rock stars in silhouette, striking triumphant poses to an imaginary crowd upstage as snippets of popular music played.

On an emotional level, the women in Abraham's company – Brittanie Brown, Rena Butler, Elyse Morris and Rachelle Rafailedes – were particularly engaging throughout the work. Though the men appeared to be performing for the audience's benefit, the women appeared to genuinely connect with one another onstage; this sisterly connection strengthened the dancers' individual performances, and was at its most palpable during a trio to a cover of Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love." Movement in this section took on a somber, contemplative quality and reflected a sort of mutual understanding among dancers.

"The Radio Show"'s final scene strongly reflected generational divide; most dancers darted offstage, leaving one dancer lost in a slo-mo run of sorts and Abraham trembling behind her. This brief moving tableau condensed themes of the greater work, effectively giving audience members a bone to chew on if they had found "The Radio Show" to be too abstract.

In its accessibility, fierce dancing and emotional content, Abraham's work was an overall success.

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Schreiber


Photo © & courtesy of Steven Schreiber

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