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The Radio Show – Abraham.In.Motion (2010)

August 1, 2010

Between 155th and 145th Street in Manhattan, nestled within a single block lays a thin strip of land named Jackie Robinson Park. Just touching Washington Heights, the park sits far into Harlem where gentrification has barely begun it’s slow crawl. Kids play on the sidewalk and adults gather at stoops or store fronts. Unlike the constant flow of pedestrians below 110th street there is a very present feeling of community. Following one woman on the street in her skates, making my way to the park, I noticed that she greeted nearly everyone along her ride.

Credit: Renee Rosensteel

Down the steps into the park and through a small plaza, a small stage is placed where The Radio Show will be performed. The atmosphere is informal and without the quiet setting of a theater the traffic and passersby create a constantly interjecting background. The lights dim as they would in a theater, but much slower and almost imperceptibly with the setting of the sun. Kyle Abraham begins on stage. He stands, not waiting or watching but almost as if lost in his own thoughts off in the distance. The conversations in the audience fade and his dance begins.

Credit: See Note

His movement is forceful yet controlled and the motion of his arms are quick but choreographed. The movement never seems to stop unless abruptly and continuing once again. His fingers are sometimes spread wide open and at others closed tightly in a fist. He walks forward slowly while his fist shakes uncontrollably at his side like an old man. The other dancers join him with the same spirited movement and continue the dance.

Credit: See Note

The most striking aspect of the performance was the music choice. Based on a radio show he listened to growing up in Pittsburgh the songs used included hip-hop, R&B, talk radio conversations, older and classical music mixed in with static as well as seemingly static influenced music in between. Many artists are now starting to incorporate hip-hop or older R&B music into their dances but choose to use it ironically as a way to distance itself from the likes of television shows such as So You Think You Can Dance. The music with words and a pumping rhythm can easily become cliché and lose its artistic integrity. Kyle does not use irony nor does he allude to the words in his dancing. As the music cuts from one song to the next we are aware that the music is not propelling the dancing but rather building on to the atmosphere. As each song plays we feel the contribution of each artist in different ways to the community Kyle is portraying.

Credit: See Note

Within the radio conversations sprinkled throughout the performance we are introduced to varying topics. They discuss what it means to be an African American woman in a relationship. They talk about how women often change after the are in a relationship and that men often do not. “What it takes to get a man is what it takes to keep them.” All the while they stay candid and poke fun at the topics they discuss. At a point in the dance a man and a woman are dancing a duet of love and rejection among many dances where the performers do not make contact with each other. At another point, one dancer mimes to take off her hoop earrings and wipe Vaseline on her face while a second dancer chews gum emphatically while putting her hair up, ready to fight.

Credit: See Note

Near the end, a very soft cover of Beyoncés “Crazy In Love” plays.

Crazy In Love – Antony And The Johnsons

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The song is reminiscent of many classical songs and Antony’s voice is hauntingly soothing. It takes Beyoncés quick and entertaining hip hop song and, using the exact same words, drives into the emotions from a different direction.
[Original] Crazy In Love – Beyoncé

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The sudden reinterpretation of this song inserted into the established atmosphere of hip hop songs creates a opening to see that the many themes within these entertaining songs are universal. The topics discussed on the talk radio show, the troubling relationship between the man and the woman, the gum chewing fighter are all aspects of our different lives spoken through the voice of an urban culture. It would be no different to choose an opus from Bach that evokes the same emotion. And as Kyle says that the radio station the dance is based on was suddenly closed it becomes very clear what voice he believes was silenced. The urban voice having the same human experience as the rest yet unable to express itself in its own way. The area surrounding Jackie Robinson Park will see its apartment prices climb and the residents will watch as their landscape and community changes with the coming gentrification. Perhaps the message wasn’t meant as a warning but it’s hard to overlook their commonality and that of urban communities everywhere that have lost or are losing their voice or never had a voice to begin with.

Did you get to see the performance at the park?

Have you seen other dances with urban themes?

Do you know of other situations where a community has lost its voice?

Who he think he is?

July 30, 2010
Jackie Robinson Park
SummerStage Dance
New York, New York

Note: Photos are screen caps taken from this promotional video.

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