Preview: Abraham.In.Motion’s Pavement at Harbison Theatre

review_pavementby Guest Writer and Visual Artist Michaela Pilar Brown.

Fresh from a MacArthur Genius Award win, acclaimed choreographer Kyle Abraham and his company, Abraham.In.Motion, present Pavement, an urban-contemporary dance performance which tells the story of two historically black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and their cultural ebbs and flows, this Saturday, March 28th, at 7:30pm at the Harbison Theatre. Drawing from the classic hip-hop movie Boyz N the Hood and Abraham’s early years spent in his inner-city hometown, the performance pays amusing homage to the bold, backwards-jean and faded high top styles of ‘90s hip-hop while also paying deeper tribute to a culture historically battling discrimination. Postmodern dance lovers will appreciate Abraham’s pedigree, which includes time spent with the legendary Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane company.

In the middle of a national conversation about black male identity in which the performance of that masculinity and the public and law enforcement response to that performance are central, Abraham.In.Motion bring their work to a Columbia stage and cracks the discussion wide open. Abraham’s work challenges traditional interpretations of identity, creating images and movement that speaks to more fluid gender ascriptions. It’s about creating a space for human interaction not constrained by masculine/ feminine, hard /soft, or other historic archetypes and separations of gender roles.

Pavement gives you humanity with a wider range of textures and of personalities. The work examines issues of conflict and violence, love, vulnerability and swagger in a national climate where a “manner of walking” can get you arrested. It is inviting the audience to consider identity through movement, and what it means to own your identity. Abrahams says “individuals need to get away from what they’ve been taught to then discover who they are.”

Fighting against new age interpretations of what hip hop dance is, Abraham uses Pavement to return the style to its roots, to a period before it was co-opted by formal training, before it became a money-making tool separated from the culture of its origin. Identity as a critical framework in art has often been used to marginalize artists of color, demanding an interpretation of work through the prism of race, gender, and/or nationality where it doesn’t apply. Abraham embraces the conversation even as he acknowledges the polemics swirling around black male identity and that speaking to the current times and their connection with history can place an artist of color in a tricky position. “Because I am an artist of color, people are looking for meaning or a way to say its derivative of something else,” looking for ways to validate the art by pedigree. He believes the work is best when spoken in the artist’s own voice without the influence of a choreographer they may have worked with for many years before.

Pavement explores the way in which we humans are moving, how that movement is connecting to history, and how memory lives in the body.

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