This boy is on fire. And he is headed back to Miami. Choreographer Kyle Abraham, that is. The Pittsburg kid, the Bessie Award winner, the one who now, on occasion, choreographs for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the happy recent recipient of a hefty USA Artist grant, whose work has been lauded by national critics as “luscious,” “stuttering” and “complexly self-aware.”
It’s the Kyle Abraham whose work, one way or another, is always exploring our urban community, most especially its often heartbreakingly brittle gender roles and expectations.
Thanks to Miami Dade College’s Live Arts Program, Abraham and company –Abraham.In.Motion — will be performing “Live! The Realest MC” at the Colony Theater on Miami Beach Friday and Saturday.
The “realest” MC? Yep. In fact none other than Pinocchio drives this narrative. After all, what does it mean to be a “real boy?” Especially where Abraham grew up. And so we are back in Abraham’s memories of middle school and high school and issues of just how many distortions one may take on to be accepted. We are caught in a dance that has as much to do with Voguing in stereotypes of Afro-American masculinity, as what Abraham quite tenderly calls, “Merce Cunningham’s insane acrobatics.”
For all Abraham’s roots in raves and free-style and hip-hop, he has been trained in more classical American lexicon and uses it well.
Still, as important to Abraham as the dance itself, is its social relevance. Indeed, the transformative moments in his life include not only watching a performance of the Bill T. Jones and the Arnie Zane Dance Company while in high school, but hearing them talk of the roots, the need, of each dance.
Wait a minute. Haven’t we here in these United States moved beyond what is described in “Live!” ? Hasn’t national attention to bullying made things really and truly better? “The situation may be improving, but we have a long way to go,” Abraham says. “Fairly recently I presented segments of ‘Live!’ to an urban high school. While in character within some of those segments, I cried on stage. A great many in the audience laughed in response.
“Let’s take a real look at the violence in urban America. A young person may listen to slurs, he or she may be pushed or punched, but at the end of the day, that kid is probably glad not to have been shot. I’d say we have a ways to go.”
Abraham is perhaps best known to Miami audiences for his Bessie-award winning “Radio,” presented in 2012 at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Center.
“’Live!’ is darker than ‘Radio,’” Abraham says. “’Radio’ is about dying. ‘Live!’ is about someone being killed. There is urgency to it.”
Rather than scaring audiences, this has brought them to the show. In a recent “Live!” run in Seattle, “groups of the same people kept coming night after night,” Abraham says. At least as moving for him was a conversation with a man born outside of The States, one who told Abraham how “Live!” had seemed to tell his own story, that of a immigrant, a man who must lose his accent among other links to his past to become accepted.
“This is what I love most,” Abraham says. “People recognizing themselves in my stories, no matter the context.”
Abraham.In.Motion’s “Live! The Realest MC” comes to the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, courtesy of MDC Live Arts Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m., tickets cost $25; www.mdclivearts.org; 305-237-3010.
A version of this was published in the Huffington Post.