#Boyznthehood: Abraham In Motion

Things started to feel normal again Saturday night – I went to see a show!  Kudos to Harlem Stage for making it happen despite Hurricane Sandy.

Despite some transportation challenges, I managed to arrive for the premiere of Pavement by Kyle Abraham and his company, Abraham.In.Motion.

Abraham is riding a wave that shows no sign of cresting.  His bio runs of out room to list everything from awards to performances.

Choreographer & Dancer
Kyle Abraham

I first took in Abraham.In.Motion during APAP 2012 at The Joyce Theater, with a performance of Live! The Realest MC.

Snapshot: Abraham moves languidly through a vocabulary of modern and street forms, although the clarity of his technique and training shines through.  Abraham draws heavily from his experiences growing up Pittsburgh.  While he frequently references gang and urban culture, his own personal story and those experiences of his dancer/collaborators embed themselves in the work.

The current A.I.M. ensemble have worked together for the last year and a half which shows in their unity of movement vocabulary.  Abraham and his dancers gracefully work idioms of pop & lock, breaking, juxtaposed with sweeping rond de jambes.

Pavement opens on a basketball court – a setting so common to any urban environment – the markings of the court abstracted a bit so that environment isn’t restrictive.  Abraham pulls from what he calls the “gangsta boheme” ideology in John Singleton’s film Boyz N The Hood.  The narrative is rich with personal exchanges; Abraham skillfully extracts powerful moments of intimacy from his dancers with the simplest touch or look.  Abraham has done his research culling from socio-economic references to build what he terms an “emotional chronology.”  The narrative is abstract, fluid even, but steady.

Abraham himself moves beautifully, blending in with his dancers, but I found his most distinguishing moments (as in Live! The Realest MC) to be his monologue/solo.  Abraham limits himself to three or four phrases but tears them apart for maximum effect, “Hey man, you gotta dollar?”  and “Help me,” so that a full spectrum of emotions burst forth.

Abraham establishes his signature movements; from the fluid b-boy isolations which reverberate in an undulating torso (although he further defines this by pulling the heart back, curving the spine in a somewhat Graham-like contraction), the linear rond de jambe en l’air, and low-flying arabesque sautes that often become a descent to the floor.  Abraham embraces his dancers strengths; Chalvar Monteiro moves most in sync with Abraham; Eric Williams and Maleek Washington provide strong slow-motion partnering; Jeremy “Jae” Neal seamlessly moves in and out of formations; Matthew Baker commands the stage with a laid-back ambulation; and Rena Butler takes on them all as an ambassador representing many different kinds of women and their respective roles.

Just as the hip hop refrains begin to belabor inherent constructs of race, oppression, and violence (although the diverse sound score, consisting of opera, jazz/blues, and street sounds punctuate the movement’s momentum), Abraham focuses the movement to the basic human need of intimacy.  As he lays on the “pavement,” Abraham’s dancers stack themselves into two lumbering piles.  They lay in stillness, their breathing eventually synchronizing…are they exhausted, dead, injured, recovering from a sexual encounter?  Yes – everything.  Simultaneously, bliss and apprehension emerge from the bodies even when they rearrange into new piles.

Abraham’s dancers are fearless and loyal to their leader.  They have created their own community that allows Abraham to ground his work.  Abraham is real, even in his coyness – at the post-show talk back he agilely negotiated one patron’s persistent inquiry as to the role selection based on race – Pavement opens with Eric Williams (White) seemingly arresting Abraham (black) and, I believe, Monteiro (also black).  “But it looks like he is a white officer arresting black people?” “Yes, he is a police officer played by a white dancer,” replied Abraham.

Check it out!  Abraham.In.Motion cover a lot of territory – Pennsylvania to Boston to Miami in the next few months.

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