Interview: Kyle Abraham and His Radio Show

Written By ArtBurst Team
August 13, 2016 at 7:03 PM

Choreographer and dancer Kyle Abraham, whose work has been described by the New York Times as “complex, self-aware, luscious,” will be performing with his company at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center this Saturday. It hasn’t been just the Times who’ve raved about Abraham. Critics have been unanimous in their praises, one after another stating that this young man is managing nothing less than the creation of a new vocabulary of movement. Small wonder Dance Magazine selected him as “one of 25 young American choreographers to watch.” Q: You and your company Abraham,in.Motion will be presenting “The Radio Show” on Saturday night. How would you describe the work? A:When I was growing up in Pittsburgh’s in the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were two Afro-American radio stations. Those radio stations are no more. One of them was talk radio, and as a kid I remember listening to the announcer and the community talk together of the young black man who had been beaten to death in Chicago. The other station was all music, lots of soul — Aretha and such — and all those messages. I found the loss of those stations devastating. I wondered, did the community as well? Even as I began to work with all this in movement, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Aphasia too. The dance deepened. Q: You play the role of your dad in the dance. A: Yes. A great many of the movements I use were my father’s. Following those movements, I have tried to capture what it would have felt like for him to be talking and suddenly to be blinded, having no idea where he was or how he got there. My father died in Miami. And this is the first time I have performed “Radio Show” since his passing. I am not sure what all I will be feeling as I present the work. That’s just fine. Q: Your company is gaining a reputation for its outreach initiatives, especially around issues of bulling and gender orientation. A. Yes, but our outreach is an exercise in mutuality: It plays an essential part in the evolution of each of our dances. We in the company have been working on a piece entitled “Live! the Realest MC,” which has a lot to do with gender. We’ve gone into high schools with movement demonstrations as well as lectures. When the kids go “eyoo” and call a movement disgusting or weird, we’d try to work with that. And those conversations work their way into the dance. We’ve spent time in high schools where English is a second language as well. Our aim has been not only to work with bullying, but to explore with the kids how culture may affect perceptions concerning gender. Q: You began to dance relatively late, no? A. I was seventeen. I began to attend raves in high school. I may have been one of the few kids high on the music alone. I loved the drum/bass rhythm; I could hear layer upon layer of rhythm and just danced. What I had discovered, of course, was improv and jazz. After that I never stopped dancing, and the whole world became new. Q: As you formed your company, what did you look for in your dancers? A.More than anything else, dancers who are open. It’s great to find dancers to whom you can talk about phrases in movement. As a choreographer, I can better define a phrase if a dancer understands what that means via the Graham technique, or that of Cunningham or Limon. But what matters to me most? Dancers who are so relaxed, they let their bones dos the moving, and those whose hearts give way to spirit. “The Radio Show, Saturday at 8 p.m.; South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 S.W. 211 St., Cutler Bay; tickets range from $10 to $25; This article appears in Photo: Steven Schreiber

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