The Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, under the Executive Direction of Thor Steingraber, continues to present some of the finest dance, music and theatre in Los Angeles. February 18, 2023 was no exception.
MacArthur Genius Award winning Kyle Abraham, superb designer of dance and concept, with A.I.M, his company of 10 brilliant dance collaborators gifted us with, Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth originally commissioned by New York’s Lincoln Center. The company presented a stunning evening artfully reconstructed and layered in the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor composed in 1791 and left unfinished by Mozart’s untimely death.
The melding of the languorous strains of the “Lacrimosa”(weeping) with pioneering producer/composer/ EDM artist Jlin’s score, created a powerful re-invention of Mozart’s haunting classic. Sampling and combining electronic sounds, house dance, Hip Hop and Afro-rhythms, brought Mozart radically into the 21st century. In Abraham’s exploration, the themes of life, death and rebirth imbued the piece with the kind of energy and oxygen that imprints on the collective memory.
This exploration occurred not only in the music and dance, but the costuming, sets and lighting. The costumes by British fashion designer Giles Deacon is personal and individual to each dancer. Black, brown or gold painted patterns on white fabrics with its gender-neutral tunics, dresses, pants, and tutus became a statement in itself. The dancers, free to move in and out of surprising configurations, with the flow of limb and draped bodies, defied expectations of what was to come. Shocks of scarlet or bright yellow mutton sleeves, ties, and bustles, along with individual red swooshes or masks painted across faces completed the primal accents. Taking advantage of their freedom, the revelation of lines and groups, countering and deferring to solo dances by the stunning Donovan Reed, Catherine Kirk, Martell Ruffin, Tamisha A. Guy, Jamaal Bowman, Keerati Jinakunwiphat, Jae Neal, Dymon Samara, Gianna Theodore, and Kar’mel Antonyo Wade Small, were so technically trained in ballet, modern, Afro-Cuban, hip hop, and/or ethnic and contemporary, as to make the moments an effortless transformative experience.
The sets and lighting by longtime Abraham associate Dan Scully were sparse, uncluttered symbols of Africa, the tundra, cradling a burst of life and time. An orb lifted high against a deep blue background changed from a hot orange sun to a light green whisper of flora and fauna, to a dermaglyph (fingerprint) determining passage of time, identity, life. The simplicity of the set was meditative, countering the complexity of concept, sounds and movement.
Without hesitation A.I.M reflects Abraham’s stated core values through the power of dance which appears to come directly from the spirit. He and his dancers and designers clearly reflect a diversity of perspectives, while sustaining their integrity not only to each other, but the field at large, along with the audience they serve. An additional promise of Abraham is his insistence in supporting dancers through a living wage, an actual season, healthcare, and nurturing young dancers in the development of insights into a successful career. Abraham’s talent and humanity is a feast for the eyes and soul. His work and intelligence clearly needs to be experienced, studied, and supported for its fearlessness, beauty and courage to make art live.
For more information on A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, please visit their website.
To see the full season at the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, please visit their website.
Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Martell Ruffin in Kyle Abraham’s Requiem Fire in the Air of the Earth – Photo by Luis Luque, Luque Photography