In part of Kyle Abraham’s latest evening length piece, “Untitled Love,” four women sit on a pink plastic-covered couch, a bronze, patterned rug at their feet. A series of great flirting cues: ankle-crossing, shoulder-rolling, flicking your fingers in the air. Often, they chatted, or ran after other dancers walking past. The steady, sultry groove in D’Angelo’s “One Mo’Gin” enlivens the scene.
Since founding his New York-based company – now called Kyle Abraham’s AIM — in 2006, Abraham, 44, often writes about the struggles, past and present, of being black in the United States. His deep and vibrant musical dances, for his own troupe and larger companies like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, have faced issues of police brutality, mass incarceration and other legacies of slavery. For “An Untitled Love”, there will be New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Wednesday, he envisioned a different mood.
“I wanted this piece to focus on joy, celebration, and love,” he said in a recent video interview from Santa Barbara, California, where AIM is touring. “I want us to be able to have fun.” Placing D’Angelo’s songs — Abraham calls himself a D’Angelo day 1 fan — the show emerges from a desire not to ignore painful realities, he says, but rather to “bring out the highlights.” beautiful in our culture, the way we love and love on each other. ”
Reflecting on love, Abraham thought about his parents and their social circles in his hometown, Pittsburgh: gathered in the living room, at church, at the barbershop and hair salon. His mother was a public school teacher, guidance counselor and principal; His father was a social worker and coached sports teams. Both died when Abraham was in his thirties, and the memories of their relationship, filled with recollections of friends and extended family, permeate the work. Vibrant colors and patterns add warmth to the stage, costumes are courtesy of Karen Young, lighting and setting designs by Joe Scully, and backdrops by illustrator Joe Buckingham.
Catherine Kirk, an AIM dancer since 2013, described the show, in a phone interview, as “a Black love sitcom – it’s fun, it’s laid-back, and it’s comforting “. D’Angelo’s practice of listening to music for months, even years (the original premiere, scheduled for spring 2020, was postponed because of the pandemic), has reminded her of why. do really to dance. “I find myself understanding more and more why I love to dance,” she says, “why dance is spiritual and it is a human language, not just technical and institutional. I think his music helps refute that.”
When the pandemic hit, Abraham resisted practicing on Zoom (“I want to avoid it at all costs”). Instead, each week, a member of the company will recommend watching or reading related to “Love Without Title” and the whole group will meet online to discuss. Abraham said that their long and tortuous conversations gave him a “sense of power and purpose” during a challenging time.
This week has been a busy week for Abraham, with his iconic, splendid “The Runaway,” created in 2018 for the New York City Ballet, returning to the stage at the Center. Lincoln, Tuesday through Thursday. He’s also choreographing his first one-act piece for the Royal Ballet (he did a shorter piece for the company last year), featuring contemporary classical music by Ryan Lott; he’ll be returning to London to put the finishing touches on it before it hits theaters on March 24. When he’s off the road, he lives in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, where he teaches at the University of Southern California.
From his hotel room on a Friday evening, Abraham reflects on his inspiration for “A Love Without a Title” and the ups and downs of his ballet company’s projects. . These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What are some memories that inspired “Untitled Love”?
There are many, really. I am one of those children who grew up with their mother. Adult parties – for whatever reason I’m allowed to be there, playing cards with the adults and everything. The jokes we play with each other in the piece, some of which are a nod to my relationship with my mother and our sense of humour. We are thick as thieves, the two of us.
The style that interests me, the atmosphere, is also connected to my childhood and being with my parents, like the plastic cover on the couch – we had one of those things – or the kind of conflict about this texture or pattern. I’m thinking about my mother and her friends sitting on the couch talking. Many of them work for the Pittsburgh public school system, so they’ll come over on Saturday and hang out and chat a bit. All of that is in the work.
Are you thinking about your parents’ relationship?
I am definitely thinking about my parents and their love. When my dad had aphasia, one of the only things he could say was my mother’s name, or tell her he loved her, out of nowhere. Even if we weren’t too close, when I was little – we got closer later – he would always ask me to help him choose a present for her. To this day, I know the florist from Ludwig Flowers north of Pittsburgh, because just a whim my dad would send my mom flowers all the time.
You also talked about this show as a love letter to D’Angelo’s music. What do you appreciate about his work?
There is so much to love. There’s fun, there’s depth, there’s a sense of community or a cultural moment where people can connect, listen to a Brown Sugar album or a Voodoo album for the first time or for the 100th time because you don’t want to stop playing it .
It’s also difficult, because I don’t want to listen to the music so much that I never want to listen to it again. I don’t want my connection to it to be diminished by the science of making a work.
Do you still feel the new music?
Super fresh. Some things are even enhanced. You know, how when you go to a place with a jukebox, you can tell who picked which song by their reaction when the song plays? They are looking around. There’s a song on this show – when it drops, I look around. I said, “Is there anyone? Is anyone there? Is this your jam too? ”
“Woman.” We just had a show in Seattle last night – the company’s fourth time there. Seattle audiences are always very quiet. But last night, when “Lady” came out, I heard someone say “Mmm, okay!” [Laughs.] I said, “Yes, it’s working!”
While “An Untitled Love” was in Brooklyn, “The Runaway” was back on stage at the New York City Ballet. Have you watched it since its premiere a few years ago?
No, but I’ll be there this month. I watched a rehearsal on Zoom recently and I was really moved, in a good way. The last part that people watch, it wasn’t originally the last – I made it possible in the last two rehearsals. We had a completely different section, a different song that we used. I said to the dancers, “I can either go the other way, or we can go on with what we’re doing.” And they say, “Just keep trying what you want to discover.”
That support was exceptional. They could have phoned him and said, “Listen, we don’t have time to learn more choreography.” But they want it to be the best of it. That really made me choke.
What are you doing for Royal Ballet?
It was the first one-act ballet performed by a black choreographer assigned to the main stage of the opera house. [Robert Garland, of Dance Theater of Harlem, made a work for the Royal’s smaller Lindbury Studio Theater in 2004.] I tell my students about it, and they get excited. But it really makes me really sad. Like, how long has the company been around, how could this happen?
I think of someone like Ulysses pigeon, and works he did such as “Dancing on the Front porch of Heaven” for the Royal Swedish Ballet, or pieces he did for the New York City Ballet. If he didn’t die too soon [to complications from AIDS, in 1996], ideally he was there before me. It would be great to be able to talk to him and learn from him. I study from him Charlie Rose interview and any footage I can find online.
Is your work a tribute to him?
I don’t know if it’s read in the choreography or not. But I was talking to one of my best friends, choreographer Darrell Moultrie, and he said, “Whatever you do, if the purpose is to honor Mr. Dove, it will happen.” So I just try to sit with that and not get overwhelmed with reading a certain type of story. Now I’m in a place where I want to make this work the best it can be, while honoring Ulysses Dove and his legacy as best as I can.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/arts/dance/kyle-abraham-dangelo-an-untitled-love.html Sitcom ‘A Black Love Dance’: Kyle Abraham Moves To D’Angelo