The Movement – Kyle Abraham Social Mover Review

Evelyn Francourt is one of four London-based Social Movers for The Movement  – an Arts Council funded partnership among three of the country’s leading dance venues; Sadler’s Wells, Birmingham Hippodrome and The Lowry, which aims to promote dance across the UK.

Here Evelyn tells us about her experience of attending Pavement, the debut performance of Kyle Abraham’s company Abraham.In.Motion on the Sadler’s Wells stage. 

The stage is brightly lit and starkly adorned with a metal fence and a lone basketball hoop.

The audience is reminded to switch off their phones and the usual pre theatre mantra at the start of a performance commences. However, as the lights have not dimmed there’s no visual cue that the performance is starting. In fact, the audience are still talking and bustling about when the first dancer enters the stage.

The male dancer walks with attitude. To say he saunters or walks with ‘swag’ underplays the first of many gestural and pedestrian motions and motifs that authentically captures a people and a mood. Abraham’s choreographic style weaves colloquialisms seamlessly into ballet, contemporary and street dance to create a multi layered and nuanced dance vocabulary.

The opening duet begins as a tentative greeting, moving into a body-locking sequence that becomes a friendly exchange. The movement changes into a beautifully fluid ballet and undulating contemporary dance hybrid accompanied by a bluesy score. It halts jarringly as one male dancer is apprehended and restrained by the other. Here, Abraham introduces another recurring motif; the male lying face down, hands behind his back as though handcuffed  – profoundly affecting, and instantly recognisable.

Pavement is inspired by the 1991 award winning film, Boyz N The Hood however it also feels personal. At the after-show talk Abraham spoke of how he drew from experiences attending school in Pittsburgh, culturally renowned for the rich Jazz heritage of the 1950’s however over the decades going into decline. Themes of community, identity, racial inequality and injustice are explored in Pavement.

The movement vocabulary is exceptional, yes the dancers are interdisciplinary, mastering Ballet, Contemporary and Street dance style, however it is the motifs and gestures that intelligently add context and authenticity. The quality of dance is exceptional; natural and human, also technical and graceful.

Through the eclectic score Abraham’s adds even more layering to this work. Classic blues, opera, classical music with dialogue from the film, Boyz N The Hood creates a poignant collage.

The close of Pavement is a lament; the stage lights are brightly lit again and the audience is shown an uncomfortably long, unflinchingly stark tableau of lifeless bodies piled on top of one another hands restrained.

I have always marveled at art’s ability to make one think as well as entertain. Abraham shines a light on society with exquisite dance mastery.

Image credit: Carrie Schneider