|Kyle Abraham (front) and company in The Watershed|
(photo: Ian Douglas)
I have enjoyed KyleAbraham/Abraham.in.Motion without really understanding how the choreographer's female dancers, no matter how focused their presence and rigorous their technique, never seem to pop from their surroundings like the male ones almost always do, and that has not changed. My most vivid memories of The Watershed will always be what men--individually or together--do, even how they radiate a palpable and purposeful individuality when they merely walk out into the space. And that includes Abraham himself, in one scene, sashaying in a satin gown and cottony wig and smearing light concealer all over his face.
|Kyle Abraham in a scene from The Watershed|
with set by Glenn Ligon
(photo: Ian Douglas)
So many ways to swim. Some of the music (Redding) takes me. The choreography, made in collaboration with the dancers, is an abundant--yes, opulent--gush and, true to this troupe's fashion, mercurial and full of flair. ("Beautiful," my guest called it, even as she felt that useful ambivalence about the way artists like Abraham, like Kara Walker, can draw us ever closer to disturbing things--like the most explosive racial stereotypes--by the beauty of their presentation.) When I zoom in on the dancers as dancers, I think I see Abraham quietly shaping an understory about how race plays out in the dance world. If I pull back, I see all of this in a more historical and societal context--literally, as projected images of civil rights demonstrators set upon by police dogs or cops beating a man into the ground play across the stage's wall. And it makes me wonder. The two things--artistic current and societal current--are they, in essence and effect, so different?
In a brief passage that made me ponder this, two Black dancers, contentedly going about the business of dancing, suddenly assume a submissive posture--chests sunken, heads bowed--when a white dancer suddenly enters and stands watching them. He maintains his dominant posture, his silent gaze, just long enough for it to register in our heads as a threat with all kinds of historical resonance. Just long enough. Then--surprise or no surprise--he peaceably slips into formation with them as they all finish out their dance.
If you noticed this moment at all, you might ask, "What did I just see?" Or, "Did I really see that, or did I see it/read it right?" All sorts of slippery stuff like that goes on in The Watershed, where irresistible rhythms and the dancing they inspire pull people of different cultures together. The work is chock full of images--some subtle, some blatant, some proffered with a wicked sense of humor and entitlement--that can only be willfully ignored.
I'm set to see Abraham's other New York Live Arts premiere, When the Wolves Came In, on September 30. More will be revealed.
KyleAbraham/Abraham.in.Motion includes Abraham, Matthew Baker, Winston Dynamite Brown, Tamisha Guy, Catherine Ellis Kirk, Penda N'diaye, Jeremy "Jae" Neal, Jordan Morley and Connie Shiau. Sound design by Sam Crawford.
Remaining performances of The Watershed: Friday, September 26*, Wednesday, October 1, Friday, October 3** at 7:30pm, all reportedly sold out. For additional information, click here.
*September 26 at 6:30pm: Come Early Video Screening and Talk: Visual Artist and Videographer Carrie Schneider discusses her dance on camera collaboration with Kyle Abraham/AIM
*October 3: Stay Late Discussion: Aesthetics of Jazz and the Performance of Protest, moderated by Carrie Mae Weems
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