Kyle Abraham in "INDY," a 2018 solo that he is dancing at Jacob's Pillow.
Kyle Abraham is a masterful storyteller.
Consider his solo “INDY,” seen Friday night at Jacob’s Pillow. He takes us through a lifetime, perhaps his, so clearly and concisely that the audience follows the narrative every step of the way.
To commissioned music by Jerome Begin, the dance tells the tale of a young man who runs into trouble with the law. That leads to a transformation, confining at first, as a dancer; and then as a human who fully, freely and joyously expresses himself.
However, dancing much of the piece with a bull’s-eye as a backdrop, one can also feel Abraham’s frustration and sadness as a target. The costume, designed by Karen Young, is also telling. With a fringe at the back of the shirt and slacks, there is a sense of not recognizing one’s potential as well as a thought that the visuals of the flying fringes are darts aimed at his back.
When he reverses his shirt, with the fringe in the front, he becomes aware of his talent, but knows he is now a bigger mark.
The title is fantastic too. It’s about independence, a liberation from what is expected of a young black man from Pittsburgh. Yet it’s told swiftly and in a ways that cautions the viewer that the biographer is on a fast track fraught with obstacles.
And that’s just for starters. With so many levels to “INDY,” it’s worth seeing again and again.
All his works for his company A.I.M. (formerly Abraham.In.Motion) inspire that kind of longing for encores.
In “The Quiet Dance,” set to Bill Evan’s playing of Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time,” Abraham explores the other – the person in the shadow who tries, but can never be, like everyone else. The gorgeous Catherine Ellis Kirk toils away like her counterparts, off to the side without ever becoming part of their team.
She leaves the stage and comes back dressed like them. But that doesn’t matter because they move off stage to return dressed like her former self. For anyone who has every felt like an outsider, despite being first, “The Quiet Dance” is especially moving.
A.I.M’s program is not completely awash in deep emotion. Abraham’s “Drive,” with music from Theo Parrish and Mobb Deep edited by Sam Crawford, electrified. On a smoky stage, with lights that face out to the audience, A.I.M. showed off what it does best – authentically melding hip hop with classical dance.
These dancers are not stretching movement vocabulary – they are the vocabulary. They speak it loudly and soundly, embodying the answer to the question repeated in the soundscape, “where is your drive?” It’s ingrained in the bodies of the Abraham’s dancers.
The evening also featured the sleek Tamisha Guy as a confident, sassy creature in the solo “Show Pony.”
Finally, A.I.M. also showcased a work by Andrea Miller. “state” took the audience on an otherworldly journey – where three appear like aphids or robots on a mindless march across a barren landscape. While dark and creepy, it kept all eyes focused on the stage.
A.I.M. will end its run at the Pillow on Sunday afternoon. I highly recommend it.