Choreography from two young, emerging choreographers – Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion and Andrea Miller/Gallim Dance – was on display over the weekend, and both offered compelling, deeply personal works.
At the Kitchen, Kyle Abraham’s Live! The Realest MC was a coming-out story inspired by the tale of Pinocchio and the tragic death in 2010 of Tyler Clementi, a victim of bullying. As a black, gay man immersed in the hip-hop community, Abraham’s journey is a quest for acceptance. Although a cast of six supports Abraham, he is clearly the star. Wearing a gold sequined shirt, he rises from the floor in a self-conscious, awkward solo of spasms, jerkiness, and tension. Later, set against a film of a dusty sidewalk in an urban neighborhood, Abraham’s movement shifts fluidly – not to mention brilliantly – from anger and anxiousness to a place of calm.
The other dancers are strong performers, but the choreography for them lacks the entrancing quality of Abraham’s solos. And the work’s structure – solo, ensemble, solo, ensemble – is frustrating. A trio for Abraham, Chalvar Monteiro, and Maleek Malaki Washington, however, is intriguing, suggesting how forced masculinity and femininity can be. Yet the most powerful part of the piece was a gripping monologue for Abraham, in which he plays both the victim and the attacker. “He hit me…they held me down!” he repeatedly shouts while sobbing with shaking arms. It was startling and painful to watch after some of the piece’s funnier moments that addressed gender roles in hip-hop. In the end, Abraham reaches acceptance on his own terms, removing a black jacket to once again reveal a shirt of sequins.
At the JCC in Manhattan, Gallim Dance, led by artistic director and choreographer Andrea Miller, presented two works that marked the culmination of the company’s year-long residency at the JCC. Seven Circles, a work in progress that will be developed into a full-length piece at the Joyce in 2012, was a refreshing addition to the company’s repertoire. It tackled intimacy, limitations, and vulnerabilities – themes explored in some of Miller’s previous works, but this new piece did so in a more experimental and improvisational vein. The dancers move slowly and gawkily against the stage’s back wall, entangle with one another, and perhaps test to what extent they can trust one another. Later, Francesca Romo and Troy Ogilvie shout gibberish without understanding each other.
In Mama Call, Miller reworked excerpts from previous repertoire to examine the idea of home. A community comes together and dissolves, a couple yearns for something out of reach, and an individual emerges from a processional march (inspired by the processionals that Miller has witnessed in Spain, as explained in a post-performance Q&A), reborn and renewed. All of these vignettes demonstrate the rawness and emotionally charged physicality of Gallim, along with the uniqueness of each of the company’s skilled movers.