Dance Cleveland brings Kyle Abraham’s dance company, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, to Playhouse Square this weekend for one performance of his latest evening length work, An Untitled Love. As the title suggests, this is a dance about love. Romantic love, love within the Black community, and love of music, specifically the R&B music of Grammy winner D’Angelo.
Who is Kyle Abraham? Cleveland dance audiences may remember Abraham performing his own choreography with ballet maverick Wendy Whelan in Restless Creature at the Ohio Theatre in 2015. See our CoolCleveland review. REVIEW: Four Choreographers Perform With Ballerina Wendy Whelan @PlayhouseSquare | CoolCleveland Since then, Abraham’s choreography and his dancers have been much in demand and frequently seen in prestigious settings. They were in NYC’s Fall for Dance this year; they were in In conversation with Merce, produced in collaboration with the Baryshnikov Arts Center; and Abraham choreographed for NYC Ballet’s recent digital season (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DG0o1bjmRIA). This coming February Brooklyn Academy of Music will present the New York premiere of Abraham’s An Untitled Love. But, of course, you could see it here in Cleveland months before that.
Wanting to give our readers the clearest possible idea what to expect on Saturday, we arranged a phone interview with Catherine Kirk, a dancer in the company since 2013 and A.I.M’s Marketing Associate.
Catherine Kirk photo by Carrie Schneider
Cleveland Concert Dance: Let’s tell our readers a little about D’Angelo’s music. We just listened to his Black Messiah album for the first time and found it very enjoyable. We were especially impressed by the musicianship of percussionist Questlove, bassist Pino Palladino, and horn player Roy Hargrove. Were you familiar with D’Angelo’s music before Abraham used it in An Untitled Love?
Catherine Kirk: I grew up listening to D’Angelo so I was definitely familiar with his discography. It’s been quite a joy to bring his music to the studio.
CCD: Do you think D’Angelo’s music will resonate with your audiences?
CK: D’Angelo definitely represents R&B music. I think his music has reached quite wide audiences around the world and our audiences are very diverse, so I think his music will probably resonate with them as it did with you.
CCD: Does An Untitled Love use all 12 tracks from Black Messiah?
CK: Not quite! The work uses D’Angelo’s tracks from both Black Messiah (2014) and Voodoo (2000), so audiences will hear a variety of D’Angelo’s discography in the work.
CCD: Talk about the world that Abraham creates in An Untitled Love.
CK: In An Untitled Love, Kyle was inspired by love and loving relationships in the village that raised him, including his parents and their friends in Pittsburgh. Of – you know – running down to the basement and seeing your parents playing cards with family and friends — aunties and uncles who may not be blood but feel just as much like family. A lot of that is deeply fleshed out in An Untitled Love. And everyone on stage really feels like a community so I think An Untitled Love is a vibrant and soulful work that’s really relatable and fun to watch. I feel it myself as a viewer from off stage and I hear it in audience talk backs.
“Everyone on stage really feels like a community.” photo by Greg Nesbit
CCD: Let’s talk about Kyle’s process. We hear that it can take a long time.
CK: An Untitled Love has been in process, technically, for years because of the pandemic. But even without the pandemic, exploring ideas and coordinating with collaborators can take a long time.
CCD: We understand that Kyle is based in California.
CK: Kyle is based in NYC, but technically, and simply put, he works bi-coastaly. In years past, Kyle has been a professor at UCLA, and now he will be teaching at USC. So, he spends time in Los Angeles seasonally based on the academic quarter he is on schedule to teach. As a company, we too are NY based, but we tour year round around the world. When we’re still in the creative process for a work, especially leading up to a world premiere, we work in the studio with Kyle either in NYC or out of town on creative residencies. Once a work has premiered and our focus is more on reviewing and keeping the work in our bodies, we work more often with our Rehearsal Director, Matthew Baker, who joined A.I.M. as a dancer in 2011.
CCD: Will the Cleveland performance be A.I.M’s first public performance of An Untitled Love?
CK: We actually did two performances of An Untitled Love, the world premiere, in Chicago in September.
CCD: Ah, yes. Here’s a very positive review of that performance. https://seechicagodance.com/review/love-air-abrahams-latest-dance-center
DanceCleveland presents A.I.M by Kyle Abraham at 7:30pm Saturday November 6, 2021 at the Mimi Ohio Theater in Playhouse Square. For tickets go to Performances | DANCECleveland | Modern and Contemporary Dance in Cleveland, OH.
Join A.I.M by Kyle Abraham for a free online Zoom master class at 5:30 pm Friday November 5, 2021. For more information and a link go to Online Zoom Master Class with A.I.M by Kyle Abraham | DANCECleveland | Modern and Contemporary Dance in Cleveland, OH.
Elsa Johnson and Victor Lucas