Kyle Abraham (b. 1977)

Pavement (2015)

Kyle Abraham, (born August 14, 1977, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.), American contemporary dancer and choreographer who founded (2006) the company Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion (A/I/M; later A.I.M.). He was a master at mixing hip-hop, street, and modern dance styles.

Abraham grew up in a middle-class African American neighbourhood in Pittsburgh. He began dancing when he was cast in a high-school musical. Having discovered his vocation late in life—for a dancer—Abraham decided to become a choreographer rather than a performer, although he was to excel at both professions. After earning a B.F.A. (2000) at State University of New York Purchase College, he performed briefly with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. He soon resumed his studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (TSA). In 2006 he received an M.F.A. and choreographed a riveting solo, Inventing Pookie Jenkins. In that piece Abraham’s movements, alternately fierce and flowing, and ankle-length white skirt upended stereotypes about masculinity. In 2007 choreographer David Dorfman, a summer instructor at TSA, invited Abraham to join the David Dorfman Dance troupe.

During this time, Abraham established (2006) A/I/M (later rebranded as A.I.M.), for which he choreographed many acclaimed dances. The works offered ruminations on identity, history, and community. In The Radio Show (2010), Abraham wove together steps inspired by both his memories of a defunct Pittsburgh radio station and his emotions connected to an illness of his father’s. For his 2012 ensemble work Pavement, Abraham revisited urban life in 1990s Pittsburgh while also drawing inspiration from John Singleton’s 1991 film Boyz n the Hood and W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 text The Souls of Black Folk. The action for Pavement takes place on an onstage basketball court and addresses the impact of domestic, police, and gang violence on black communities. The dancemaker next created When the Wolves Came In (2014), a meditation on civil rights with designs by Glenn Ligon and music by Robert Glasper. Additional pieces included Absent Matter (2015); INDY (2018), his first solo in many years; and Meditation: A Silent Prayer (2018), a collaborative piece with the artist Carrie Mae Weems that addressed police brutality.

Abraham also choreographed for other companies. His repertoire for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) and Ailey II (AAADT’s junior company) included The Corner (2010), Another Night (2012), and the last two movements of his trilogy Untitled America (2016). He also branched out by creating a duet for himself and New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan. The two premiered The Serpent and the Smoke at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2013. Five years later Abraham choreographed a piece for the New York City Ballet, his first for that company. In addition, Rag & Bone fashion designers Marcus Wainwright and David Neville launched their fall-winter 2014 collection with a video choreographed by Abraham; it featured him and Indigo Ciochetti performing in black knitwear.

Abraham’s numerous honours included a Bessie Award and a Princess Grace Award (both 2010). In 2012 he received a Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, and the following year he was named a MacArthur fellow. In 2016 Abraham was a recipient of a Doris Duke Artist Award, given to those who foster continuing excellence in the performing arts.