St. Mark’s Church, the home of Danspace Project, was packed on Saturday evening for the closing performance of Kyle Abraham’s The Radio Show – and with good reason. Abraham is an incredibly talented, young choreographer overflowing with lush movement and ideas that he beautifully crafted in collaboration with his company, Abraham.In.Motion, for their first evening-length work.
The Radio Show was broken into two halves, called “AM 860” and “106.7 FM”, sister stations that Abraham remembers listening to while growing up in Pittsburgh. The latter station went off air this past September, raising questions for Abraham about communication and the role of radio – more specifically, black radio – during troubling times. Throughout the work, the choreography and sound score continually seemed to ask, “Are we still listening?” Fluid bursts of kinetic movement were interspersed with slow walks or abrupt pauses, often echoing the static that interrupted excerpts from myriad well-known songs that spanned from the 70s to present day. The cast of seven, including Abraham, was so in tune with one another and the vision for this work that you could feel the airwaves vibrating through their well-trained, agile bodies.
Excerpts from call-in radio brought up gender, sexuality, and relationships – themes that were also evident in many of the trios and duets throughout the second half of the performance. Three women strutted competitively; two men longed for each other, separated by a diagonal stretch of light; and a tender duet for a man and woman indicated pain beyond their control. Dancers entered and exited from the wing-less sides of St. Mark’s Church (they sat and watched each other when not performing), allowing various scenarios to blend into one another, often building as another one disintegrated. The layering effect spoke volumes about the ebb and flow of communication, and again reflected the rapidly changing medley of songs, static, and radio talk. Trousers and backless shirts designed by Sarah Cubbage accentuated the dancers’ fluid torsos, while Dan Scully’s lighting illustrated a dim, melancholy atmosphere and brighter moments that aligned with the radio excerpts.
Early in the piece, Abraham quivered uncontrollably as he conveyed a range of emotions. His evolving reactions to socio-political situations, along with the rest of the cast’s, flowed through The Radio Show in a smart, compelling way. The combination of lush, structured movement and a thorough exploration of ideas created an engaging, sophisticated work.