Abraham.In.Motion: Dance review by Eva Yaa Asantewaa
At 38, choreographer Kyle Abraham has already claimed international attention and won an armload of top dance awards—from a 2010 Bessie to a 2013 MacArthur “genius” fellowship. This week, he adds a new achievement: his Abraham.In.Motion ensemble presents its first full Joyce Theater season. Set to live music, the shows feature repertory works (The Quiet Dance, The Gettin’) and the New York premiere of Absent Matter, a quintet reflecting today’s movements for racial justice as streets, campuses and social media explode with protest.
Like Abraham’s other works, Absent Matter draws from a fusion of techniques—contemporary dance, ballet, West African, hip hop—charging through his dancers with liquidity and flash. It all belongs to them, their energies unflagging, each and every ripple, whirl and thrust never less than alluring.
This movement plays out against often searing, sometimes funereal, sounds and imagery of violence. Collaborating artists Naima Ramos Chapman (video), Dan Scully (set, lighting) and Kris Bowers and Otis Brown III (music) have given Abraham everything he needs to establish context and meaning, enough to activate memories that both experience and mass media have stored in our minds.
Abraham excites his audience with the quality of his dancers’ performances—Tamisha Guy, extravagant in her musicality, and proud, slinky Jeremy “Jae” Neal serve him especially well—as well as with the sheer variety of things to savor at once. But the sight of all of this disciplined lusciousness, born of many hours shut away in studios, raises questions. Can Abraham’s choreography grapple with the harsh, street-side realities this work is meant to address? If we’re moved by Absent Matter is that only because we already know we should be?—Eva Yaa Asantewaa
Joyce Theater. Through Nov 15. Choreographed by Kyle Abraham. 1hr 30mins.