The African -American choreographer Kyle Abraham is only just beginning to burn himself into the consciousness of dance audiences this side of the Atlantic. The recipient of a raft of American awards, including a MacArthur Genius Grant, we recently saw his work in special Royal Ballet commissions danced on the august stage of the Royal Opera House. But with the return of his own company A.I.M by Kyle Abraham to Sadler’s Wells we are seeing quite a different, visceral side to this prolific choreographer.
Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth is a collaboration with the electronic music producer Jlin, who appropriated the bulk of Mozart’s Requiem and instead built a thumping, propulsive electronic score that quotes from the original at particularly impactful points, but on the whole goes its own way.
With subtle narrative lighting by Abraham’s regular collaborator Dan Scully, and unisex costumes by the innovative Paris couturier Giles Deacon, Requiem is very much a harmonious work with all parts serving the whole.
Abraham’s superlative dancers are masters of his unique vocabulary: like a magpie, the choreographer takes from classical ballet, contemporary dance (Graham, Cunningham et al), African ritual dance, street, hip-hop, Brazilian capoeira and more, but moulds them all into a completely original eloquent voice.
Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth is a post-Covid work (it premiered in San Francisco last December), but it is primarily about the Black experience. The 10 predominantly black dancers, whose costumes subvert expectations, with the men in white dresses splashed with red, a couple of misshapen tutus, some colourful arm gaiters, form a community.
They huddle together and break apart, bending towards the earth as if broken by intense grief, or raising heads to heaven in supplication. When they fall to the ground, their bodies convulse, torsos heaving as if breathing their last, only to be lifted up by the care of others.
Arms are particularly engaging in Abraham’s style: they open like long, graceful wings, always providing a special accent to the movement of the body.
Fierce energy permeates the work, but there are also gentle moments of extraordinary beauty, in particular a fluid, yearning solo to the Requiem’s Dies Irae played sofly, as if from afar.
Kyle Abraham’s Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth is certainly about the Black experience; but in its depiction of its suffering and joy, endurance, despair, anger and indestructible resilience, it is also about humanity, and thus it speaks to all of us. It leaves us with the image of a baby projected onto the lens, while on stage the dancers appear to have reached a moment of peace.
Read Culture Whisper's interview with Kyle Abraham here.
|What||A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
31 May 22 – 01 Jun 22, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour approx
|Website||Click here to book|