"I had to do something," says choreographer/dancer Kyle Abraham, taking a break from rehearsing his company Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion in a downtown SoHo studio recently. "I had to respond in some way when the urban radio station Hot 106.7 FM WAMO and its sister station, AM 860, went off the air in my hometown of Pittsburgh, and at the same time my father began suffering from Alzheimer's and aphasia. I choreographed The Radio Show
. It's about losing your voice and your memory." His 11-member company performs the evening-length The Radio Show
at the Institute of Contemporary Art November 16 and 17, presented by the ICA and CRASHarts.
Sweet-faced and intense, a tweed newsboy hat set on his head, Abraham describes the station as the voice of the black community. It featured classic soul music on AM, playing Shuggy Otis and Dionne Warwick, and contemporary hip-hop on FM, like Jay- Z and Beyoncé, and it also covered the community's concerns with opinion and call-in shows. Now 35, Abraham remembers that growing up in the late '70s the station gave him a sense of home, which of course his father did also. He uses the music of the two stations as well as classical compositions by Ryoji Ikeda and Alva Noto in his highly athletic and poetic work, mixing in the sound of audio static to represent both the radio station's fading signal and his father's loss of his ability to speak. "Don't think it's sad, though," he says. "There's joy in the dancing."
Now a Brooklyn resident, Abraham started choreographing The Radio Show by generating movement on his own body. "I usually work with four phrases and then choreograph variations on them," he says. He cites as his heroes the choreographers Ralph Lemon and Bebe Miller, but his intricate movement language is all his own, a visceral mix of ballet, hip-hop, and contemporary dance that excites audiences with its raw emotionalism. "His work leads to transcendence," says Abraham.In.Motion dancer Maleek Washington. "It takes you from zero to 10 and shows you who you are."
Abraham first gained attention as a member of David Dorfman Dance after earning his BA and MFA degrees, respectively, from SUNY Purchase and NYU. But not until establishing his own troupe in 2005 did his reputation begin to spread; The Radio Show and other works eventually won him prestigious commissions, tours to Europe and Asia and, in 2012, the distinguished Jacob's Pillow Dance Award. But there was another, maybe more satisfying reward. "I don't know if The Radio Show had anything to do with it or not," Abraham says with a smile, "but the last time I was in Pittsburgh, WAMO was back on the air."
KYLE ABRAHAM/ABRAHAM.IN.MOTION :: Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave, Boston :: November 16 [7:30 pm] + 17 [8 pm] :: $40 :: 617.876.4275 or worldmusic.org