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PITTSBURGH NATIVE KYLE ABRAHAM
by Genea L. Webb
Pain, love and violence are just some of the themes in Kyle Abraham’s latest choreographed work, “Pavement.”
The work is told from the point of view of three friends who are working hard to stay together while the community they love and live in is ripping them apart.
Abraham, who hails from Pittsburgh’s Lincoln-Lemington area and now resides in New York City, said his inspiration for the piece came from John Singleton’s 1991 coming-of-age movie “Boyz-n-the Hood.”
“When I first saw the movie in 1991 in Monroeville I noticed the genocide,” Abraham said. “At that time I was entering Schenley High School and living in the Lincoln-Lemington area. It was like the bloods and crips here in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a vibrant history with our jazz legends and buildings like the Crawford Grill. That added vibrancy in the 1990’s. I was home in November and now those buildings are boarded up and I asked people how they felt about that and how they were represented by the boarded-up buildings. When I think about those buildings, there’s so much history in Pittsburgh and all that has changed.”
The final stop on a five-week tour, Abraham will be bringing the gripping spectacle of dance to the Byham Theater stage for one night only on February 16 at 8 p.m. The performance is being presented by the Pittsburgh Dance Council, a division of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
“I’m really excited about being on that stage showing my work. I’m really going to have to keep it together. ‘Pavement’ has hit the pavement,” Abraham said.
The self-proclaimed music freak came to dance late, seeing his first performance, the Joffery Ballet’s “Billboards” at age 16.
“I was hyped and after the show we went back to my friend’s house and she was auditioning for school and she showed me her solo piece. I was in love with movement,” Abraham said.
The renowned choreographer got his start in the dancing world as a student of the Civic Light Opera Academy and he went on to study the discipline at Creative and Performing Arts High School. Abraham studied dance at State University of New York at Purchase and earned his MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Before starting his own company, Abraham.In.Motion. in 2006, Abraham performed in a myriad of modern dance companies including David Dorfman Dance in 2007.
A year later he was awarded a Jerome Foundation travel and study grant and in 2010 he was lauded with a Princess Grace and Bessie Award for his piece “The Radio Show.” Some of his other creations include “The Realest MC” and “A Ramp to Paradise, OP 1, Live!”
Abraham said “Pavement” is the best work he’s ever made.
“It’s really good and I feel real successful with how real I am able to make it. All of my work is honest and some of the other work had lots of movement. ‘Pavement’ has aggressive, celebratory movement and it takes you on a wave of emotion,” he said.
The piece is set to an eclectic score of music including opera, rhythm and blues, country and soul complete with essays from W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Soul of Black Folk” and excerpts from “Boyz n the Hood”. All this is mixed with sounds of the city to help bring the piece to life.
“I hope people walk away changed. This is a work about community so hopefully they’ll walk away with questions or wanting to celebrate the rich history in their communities and address things like drugs and gang violence. I am interested in new audiences and I want families to come and ask each other about their family history. The show is for everyone there is something for everyone,” Abraham said.
Abraham will take “Pavement” on a European tour in the fall before it returns to the states to be performed at several venues including the American Dance Festival.
Tickets for the Pittsburgh performance may be purchased online at www.trustarts.org or by calling 412-456-6666.
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