I wish I had a richer vocabulary to describe dance — because the gorgeous, playful, and fierce show last night by Kyle Abraham’s company deserves more than I can write. The company of seven dancers combined moves from classical ballet with hip hop and other dances in front of an alternately blazing and soulful jazz quartet. The things the human body can do!
The Time’s dance critic Gia Kourlas didn’t love it as much as I did when the four pieces played in New York last fall, but I think she missed the point. What she calls “sketches” or half-finished dances were part, it seemed to my much less trained eye, of Abraham’s aesthetic of play. The dances unfurled as if they were spontaneous eruptions of feeling, things that might just happen, in the rush of emotion and public protest. The middle performance, “Absent Matter, which was performed in front of video projections of Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, MO, rolled over us like a freight train. What if everything we feel and think becomes physical? What if our bodies can move in every possible way, so that the full complexity of lived experience — anger, rage, risk, play, improvisational discovery — jumps out from each impossibly long dancing leg or arm?
Of the four pieces, I thought “Absent Matter” hit the highest heights, but I also loved the final number, “The Gettin’,” which brought the band up on stage to perform the Freedom Suite from Max Roach’s “We Insist!” (1960) in front of images from apartheid South Africa. “The Quiet Dance,” the second piece after a short solo prelude, began without any music at all. My daughter Olivia, who’s 13 and didn’t follow all the political references in the videos, loved this one the most – pure beauty of humans in motion.
One of the best things about #Artsideas16 is seeing things I’d never find otherwise!