January 26, 2023
Newman Center for the Performing Arts Present, An Untitled Love, performed by A.I.M by Kyle Abraham
On Friday, January 27, 2023, the Newman Center for the Performing Arts present An Untitled Love, set to the music of R&B maestro, D’Angelo and presented by AI.M by Kyle Abraham. Based in New York City, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham performs dance-based work that is galvanized by Black culture and history. Performances are informed by and made in collaboration with artists within a range of disciplines, encompassing a sensual and provocative vocabulary that incorporates music, visual art and digital media. A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham’s Denver stop underscores the Newman Center’s commitment to contemporary dance.
A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Kyle Abraham, Founder and Artistic director of A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, has received numerous accolades for his artistic vision and contributions in the performing arts. I was fortunate to be able to connect with Kyle, via Zoom, to discuss more about his upcoming sold-out performance.
Image: Kyle Abraham performing in, Cocoon. Photo by Christopher Duggan
What inspired you to form the dance company A.I.M by Kyle Abraham?
When I was in graduate school - even before graduate school - I was just interested in making group work. I was making a lot of solo work, but it just seemed like something that I should try and organize to work with the same dancers over a period of time. That was a big part of it.
The company itself, in thinking about who I was working with, I wanted to collaborate with people in a way that reflected society in some way. I realized while working in the graduate program where there weren’t many of us represented, that I wanted to make sure that I saw myself in the room. That was a big thing for me when making work and choosing dancers at that time. It's like, ‘okay, well it's great to have really amazing dancers, but how can I also have amazing dancers that also reflect my community in some way?
How are performances curated to tell a story through movement?
I think finding dancers and artists who are open enough to invest and learn the way I share my story, which can be super vulnerable. I think it's great when things are relative and people have a shared history, but it's even that much more important when there's an openness to learn and to kind of channel something or someone else. That was a big part of the process for, An Untitled Love, connecting with our elders or with parents, working in the community and trying to collect stories from different individuals. I brought the dancers to my hometown in Pittsburgh and shared stories of couples that I grew up with, discussing their hardships, joys and love, all that played an influence in making the work.
Image: Performers in, Drive. Photo By Steven Schreiber
You incorporate different visual elements to your dance performances, through the use of media to live musicians, how do you feel those elements add to the performance to create a dimensional experience within the dance?
You know, honestly, I think part of it is that I love surprising audiences. I made a work called Pavement that was set mostly to songs written for contralto singers, so like the baroque-era style of music. And then from there, I wanted to honor jazz and I was thinking about Max Roach’s, We Insist! Max Roach’s - Freedom Now Suite. I started collaborating with Robert Glasper of The Robert Glasper Trio, and it just seemed so right to have a live performance with the company.
The following year, I wanted to put a shift in the way in which people talked about American music and its history. I wanted to create a program that was really honoring Black Music and our influence in all genres and have it all live. The project that comes after An Untitled Love is my reimagining of Mozart's Requiem called, Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth, that focuses on the ideals of Black futurism and afterlife, rebirth, and reincarnation. So it's fun to play with concepts. It's nice to have the ability to change, shift, and keep an audience on their toes so they don't really know what to expect.
Image: Performers in An Untitled Love. Photo by Christopher Duggan
We’re excited about your performance at the Newman Center on January 27. What influenced you to create a performance set to the music of R&B artist, D’Angelo?
D’Angelo’s music catalog honors our history and our present-day culture when you think about his covers of Cruising or the way in which you hear the influences of jazz or of other artists, like Prince, in his music. He’s very clearly honoring the legacy that he is a part of, which is something that I hope to be doing as a dancemaker.
What are you looking forward to in this new year?
I'm interested in seeing really just how this country is feeling and experiencing, giving and sharing, and listening. I'm really curious to see how that happens in ‘23. I think everyone's had at least, even if it's a fraction of a moment to consider why we're doing what we're doing, I'd like to think in ‘23 maybe some of those ideas and impulses and passions are being planted or for some, you're seeing some sprouting happening. So I'm really curious in the most hopeful way, for everyone, even people well beyond my reach, that they're finding that space to be much more connected with their joys and passion.