So you think you know dance? Pittsburgh-based choreographer Kyle Abraham has got moves—and also some important sociopolitical themes to express. The 2013 MacArthur Genius Fellow has three performances at the Newmark Theatre this week, thanks to White Bird. Why should you care? We’ve got five good reasons.
1. His dance crosses musical genres and blends techniques.
Classical music, jazz, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West—they all form part of the soundtrack to Abraham’s shows, which blend modern dance techniques with hip-hop and urban street dance, producing expressive works of grace and athleticism.
2. Abraham tackles racial politics head on.
Abraham, who mines his personal history in his work, choreographed the work “Absent Matter” in light of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. His at times subtle social messages delve into contemporary racial tensions and gang culture while showcasing historical African-American musical genres alongside contemporary artists.
3. The dancers are also educators.
Abraham’s dancers are more than artists: they also assist Abraham’s company (Kyle Abraham/Abraham.in.Motion) with programming and education outreach. While in town, Abraham and his dancers are conducting workshops and participating in lectures in addition to dance lessons, all at Reed College.
4. He’s a genius … at least according to the MacArthur Foundation.
Having won a "Genius" Grant from the MacArthur Foundation in 2013 for his able juggling of racial identity and personal history in his work, Abraham went on to choreograph performances that hinted at both his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s and the closure of a Pittsburgh radio station that was central to the local African-American community. Plus, he won a prestigious Bessie in 2010.
5. It’s beautiful. Just watch.
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion runs March 10–12 at the Newmark Theatre.