Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion to Perform PAVEMENT at Jacob's Pillow, Begin. Today
Jacob's Pillow presents the athletic and daring Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion (A/I/M) in the Doris Duke Theatre, August 21-25. Led by 2012 Jacob's Pillow Dance Award recipient Kyle Abraham, A/I/M will perform Pavement (2012), a gripping contemporary work layered with urban and classical dance influences that shows "great subtlety and beauty" (Andrew Boynton, The New Yorker).
The true aim of the work, according to Abraham, is "to create an emotional chronology of a culture conflicted with a history plagued by discrimination, genocide, and a constant quest for a lottery ticket weighted in freedom." A source of inspiration for the creation of Pavement was Abraham's hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, specifically the neighborhoods of Homewood and the Hill District. These historically black areas thrived with art and culture in the 1950's, with jazz legends the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performing at local theaters, but later turned to centers of drugs and gang violence. Abraham drew further inspiration from crime-drama film Boyz n the Hood (1991) and its portrayal of the state of Black American males at the end of the 20th century, as well as from Great Barrington, MA native W.E.B. Du Bois' book The Souls of Black Folk.
The choreography in Pavement "delivers a sharp sense of reality with extraordinary softness, in dancing that is lush and seductive" (Sarah Kaufman, The Washington Post). Seven dancers take the stage in movement influenced by urban culture with strength and technical excellence. The work begins with a powerful solo performed by Abraham accompanied by Fred McDowell's blues song "What's the Matter Now." The full cast sweeps the space in various solos, duets, and group sections. The phrases create imagery of strength and perseverance, and reflect Abraham's signature style of "smooth undulating torsos, articulate arms, and intricate floor work" (Adrienne Totino, examiner.com).
The diverse music used in the work range from classical greats such as Johann Christian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi to electronic music from Hudson Mohawke and blues from Donny Hathaway. Jane Vranish of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette commented that the music is "eclectic and ultimately universal." Sprinkled throughout the musical scores is onstage chatter and various sound clips, which Andrew Boynton of The New Yorker describes as giving "a more concrete framework in which to understand the piece."
Pavement gains a clear sense of place through the set design by Dan Scully and the costume choices by Abraham, both of which portray life in an urban neighborhood. Included in the set is a chain-link fence and basketball hoop, whose backboard occasionally reflects film footage of housing projects and community infrastructures, courtesy of Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey. The costumes consist of casual, pedestrian clothing. Adrienne Totino of examiner.com comments that these aesthetic choices, along with the music and choreography of Pavement, succeed "in bringing emotion to the stage, with a heavy dose of reality...because Abraham created the work with the honesty of his experience, rather than any hard-lined opinions, the show served as a thought-provoking and exciting discussion piece."