Out of the smoky darkness, Kyle Abraham emerges, opening the magnificent four piece Abraham in Motion (A.I.M.) with one explosive solo, "INDY." Four stand-alone pieces that touch on police brutality, love, human connection, powerlessness, and pain, and everything begins with one gloriously powerful solo. An entire piece performed by one man.
Abraham enters through a veil of smoke, walking into an ethereal ray of light. His arms shake, pelting the light with a barrage of questions. It does not answer. Then, slowly, things calm.
Abraham turns away from the audience, highlighting his costume. It suggests a second black skin, with a simplistic front: loose-fitting black t-shirt and pants. But the now-revealed back is alive, adorned with layers upon layers of short black almost-feathers, rippling seductively. Abraham has changed his second skin from simple to exquisite, otherworldly, and hypnotic.
This moment touches on the essence of the evening. Not only does Abraham make his clothes come alive, but he seems to pull on powers far beyond himself, greater than himself, to generate the power needed to express everything this solo contains. To make everything that needs to come alive, alive. Kyle Abraham founded the dance company Abraham.In.Motion (A.I.M) in 2006 intending to “delve into identity in relation to a personal history.” This solo seems to speak to this personal history as one larger than one man's journey. As a white woman, I feel that anything I purport to understand about that shared story would be horrifyingly incomplete. So let's take a moment to sit back and experience the essence.
Abraham radiates energy. Abraham is a magnet of energy. He pulls energy out of the air, out of the ground, out of life itself. He explodes spontaneously into leaps and jumps and waves of speed and agility and grace. Every movement is liquid power in his hands.
Even when he spends three minutes just strutting about the stage, flirting with the audience, even when he waves, even when he stands still, everything is a statement of power. After the sound of a gunshot, everything goes black. The world reawakens to Abraham’s arms, now shaking with questions not for a light, but for himself, for the audience, for the world. At one point, a recording of a graduation calls out to Abraham. As his name is announced, Abraham slowly, painfully removes his costume - everything save a boxer slip. The almost-feathers ripple as he lays them down, stands, and moves away in fragmented distortions.
The theater is hot. Not just because it’s heated to the max, or because the feverishly excited crowd (a younger and more racially diverse crowd than is often seen at Seattle dance events) verbally encourages performers constantly, but also due to the deep-seated physical, emotional, deeper heat. The performance is a hot bath of anguish, passion, and intensity. It is hard to believe that only one person is on stage. Abraham contains more power. Abraham calls on more power. Abraham channels more power.
The Moore Theater is the right place for this. Built in 1907, it has seen many eras, from vaudeville to rock concerts to contemporary dance performances, and these eras have all held different energies. The entire building reverberates with this ability to hold power. To change social norms. To destroy old barriers. To tap into greater powers. McCaw Hall, home to the largest opera and ballet companies in the Pacific Northwest, with all its fragile glass and careful chandeliers, could never hold something so powerful. It'd shatter.
Writing about Abraham’s solo seemed dangerous, as if by writing something wrong - or simply by writing at all - I was tarnishing something very sacred. As if I would diminish the power by recognizing it. As if my lack of shared experience would make it wrong. But it feels right to express gratitude after experiencing something so powerful.
Abraham is a homing beacon for power. His solo, an entire piece by one man, is a masterpiece of power. And it is a gift. Thank you, Kyle Abraham.
Lead photo credit: "INDY" by Kyle Abraham. Photo by Steven Schreiber.
Rosemary Sissel is a 11th grader at Henry Foss High School.
This review was written as part of the Theater & Dance Press Corps Intensive.
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