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MCA Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion Review- Largo Hip-Hop Grace

By Amy Munice

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When the Wolves Came In, Connie Shiau. Photo: Tim Barden

 

Think hip-hop style in super-fluid slow motion, with the emotive power of a soulful cello. 

 

When the Wolves Came In, Winston Dynomite Brown, Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Tim Barden

 

That begins to put you in the right solar system to picture Kyle Abraham’s choreography and Abraham.In.Motion.  Using shoulder articulations and other moves that many of us equate with a break dancing gymnast and slowing these motions way, way, way down, Abraham has created a new modern dance aesthetic.  That he couples this choreography with provocative and effective props and settings intrigues all the more.

 

The troupe’s recent performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) titled “When the Wolves Came In” was a return performance by this New York City-based group. 

 

When the Wolves Came In, Sam Pratt, Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Tim Barden

 

Picture a backdrop of what seems to be a Klan rally imaged in a Rorschach test. 

 

When the Wolves Came In, Sam Pratt, Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Tim Barden

 

The opening, “When the Wolves Came In”, was  performed by seven of the company’s nine dancers, with several of the dancers sporting foot+ high wigs in Marie Antoinette style. 

 

When the Wolves Came In, Sam Pratt, Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Tim Barden

 

Duets in feral-style body embraces, or rather, simulated sniffs, form and re-form packs and loner strays. 

 

When the Wolves Came In, Sam Pratt, Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Tim Barden

 

At some point, some of the wig-wearing dancers lose their wigs, seeming more vulnerable and exposed than if they had stripped naked.  From time to time our attention is grabbed from the dance per se by the sometimes frenetic music by Nico Muhly, whose work and playful personality many regular MCA-stage goers have enjoyed previously when he was a visiting guest artist with eighth blackbird.

 

When the Wolves Came In, Matthew Baker, Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Tim Barden

 

“Wait!” “Wait”, this writer wanted to say when the dance and music ended.  So rich and multilayered, one just wanted them to perform it again and again.

 

While all of the dancers in Abraham.In.Motion (Christian Allen, Matthew Baker, Vinson Fraley Jr., Tamisha Guy, Thoas House, Catherine Ellis Kirk, Penda N’diaye, Jeremy “Jae” Neal, and Connie Shiau) are super-athletic and graceful, the second piece “Hallowed” gave us a chance to really zoom in on the mastery of three--- small and spry Tamisha Guy, broad-shoulder, broad-smiled and long legged Catherine Ellis Kirk, and much-muscled Jeremy “Jae” Neal.  With lowered lights their largo hip-hop moves  choreographed by Kyle Abraham rippled in the shadows dramatically.

 

Performance view, Abraham.In.Motion: When the Wolves Came In, MCA Chicago. Dancers: Vinson Fraley and Tamisha Guy. April 28–May 1, 2016. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

 

The kick-in-the-gut piece was last, “The Gettin’”, which was accompanied by Robert Glasper’s interpretation of “We Insist!” from Max Roach’s “Freedom Now Suite”. We read in the program Roach had originally planned to unveil to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963 but instead launched it in 1960 as sit-ins and the events of the Civil Rights Movement swelled.

 

Performance view, Abraham.In.Motion: When the Wolves Came In, MCA Chicago. Dancers: Vinson Fraley Jr., Tamisha Guy, and Jeremy “Jae” Neal. April 28–May 1, 2016. Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

 

The female dancers wore anklets and the proper school girl dresses similar to many well-dressed protesters at that time.  The backdrop on top of the Klan collage backdrop showed Eric Garner on rewind arguing with the police who then killed him, interspersed with Afrikaans signs and other scenes of apartheid in Soweto.   Opening slower and building to a pitch, sometimes trio, or solo, duo or entire ensemble, the overall feel with this backdrop conveyed struggle and journey, concluding with a  moving and informative monologue on African-American achievements. 

 

Here too—choreography so fluid yet exquisitely layered and so much else going on – we wanted to both cheer the performance and implore to see it again.   And, thanks to the magic of Youtube we can!  Here is a clip of an earlier performance, albeit grossly inferior to seeing it live at the MCA

 

 

This was the last performance in  the MCA Stage 2015 – 16 season.   For information on the new season stay tuned to the MCA website.

 

 

Published on May 03, 2016

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