The exquisite and ground-breaking A.I.M by Kyle Abraham returns to Southern California for two performances at The Wallis, February 9th at 7:30 pm and February 10th at 2:00 pm. The program will include the world premiere of choreographer and creative director Andrea Miller’s new work YEAR commissioned by Abraham, along with Abraham’s MotorRover and If We Were a Love Song. The company’s website states that “The mission of A.I.M by Kyle Abraham is to create a body of dance-based work that is galvanized by Black culture and history and features the rich tapestry of Black and Queer stories.” Tickets are on sale now at


Kyle Abraham - Photo by Carrie Schneider

Kyle Abraham – Photo by Carrie Schneider

Kyle Abraham began his dance training in his hometown, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania at the Civic Light Opera Academy and the Creative and Performing Arts High School. He received a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, plus an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Washington Jefferson College. His instructors at SUNY Purchase included Larry Clark (Farber Technique), Maxine Sherman (Graham technique), Kathy Kerr (Cunningham Technique), Betty Jane Sales (Ballet), Sarah Stackhouse (Limón Technique), and Neil Greenberg (Release Technique, Composition). A.I.M by Kyle Abraham has toured nationally and internationally and his choreography has been commissioned by The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, the National Ballet of Cuba, American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and others.

Abraham also has an ongoing connection to Los Angeles. From 2016 to 2021 he was a visiting professor in residence at UCLA’s World Arts Cultures in Dance program and currently has a Claude and Alfred Mann Endowed Professorship in Dance at the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. His first show in LA was when the company presented The Radio Show at REDCAT in 2011. Abraham graciously agreed to an interview on Zoom with LA Dance Chronicle.

When I asked him if he would be teaching while in LA, Abraham said that he begins teaching at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance on February 5th and following the performances at The Wallis, the company will continue touring with a totally different program at George Mason University in Virginia. He will be back teaching at USC later in February and throughout March.

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham -Jamaal Bowman and Donovan Reed in "MotorRover" - Photo by Christopher Duggan

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham -Jamaal Bowman and Donovan Reed in “MotorRover” – Photo by Christopher Duggan

During the COVID pandemic, Abraham began working on a duet titled MotoRover when two of his dancers, Claude “CJ” Johnson and Donovan Reed said that they knew that they could not work together in the studio but that they really wanted to dance. “So, the three of us went into a park in New York near my apartment,” he said. “We went to the park and just started making something, not knowing what it was going to be.”

Later on, Patricia Lent, former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and now a Trustee and Director of Licensing at the Merce Cunningham Trust, reached out to Abraham about creating a work “in conversation with” Cunningham’s work.  Together they decided on using Cunningham’s Land Rover (1972) as a reference point. “I was already building and playing with this duet,” he said. “I thought oh, there’s something about it (Land Rover) that makes me want to study this Cunningham duet all the more.”

Abraham then sat in on a few rehearsals of excerpts from the original version of Land Rover that the Cunningham Trust was re-staging on two dancers from the Ailey Company. “I went back into the park with my dancers and started building more of the duet,” he added. The result was MotoRover which will be performed at The Wallis by Donovan Reed and Jamaal Bowman.

Tamisha A. Guy in Bebe Miller’s “Rain,” a solo from 1989 - Photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Tamisha A. Guy in Bebe Miller’s “Rain,” a solo from 1989 – Photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

When I saw the company at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach, the program included a powerful work by Bebe Miller titled Rain. I asked Abraham if including works by other choreographers was something new to his company.

“Yes, definitely,” he answered. “We first started expanding the repertoire of the company around 2017. From the first program, it has always been about people who either I was influenced by or that I feel in some ways my work, ironically using the same term that we used for Land Rover and MotoRover, in conversation with.”  He first reached out to Doug Varone and Bebe Miller and Varone’s company restaged a work titled Strict Love (1994). Abraham said that he had seen that work of Varone’s the same day that he auditioned to enter the dance program at SUNY Purchase. “I think that people who have seen The Radio Show from my company can find a certain sense of connection because of what Doug is using as his sound score,” Abraham said. “He’s using this series on the radio that goes from song cycle to song cycle and even hearing the broadcaster’s voice in that work.”

Abraham is a huge fan of Bebe Miller and thought that it would be good for his company to learn from her, so the company performed an excerpted work of Miller’s called Habits of Attraction. “Shortly after that I began to bring in commissioned choreographers to make new works, the first of which was Andrea Miller,” he said. Miller was brought in to create a new work with the women in A.I.M because the men and one other woman were on the road touring with a piece called Pavement, and Abraham wanted them to continue working and getting paid. It was a work titled State.

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in "If Were a Love Song" - Photo by Steven Pisano

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in “If Were a Love Song” – Photo by Steven Pisano

At The Wallis, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham will premiere Andrea Miller’s work YEAR which includes the entire company. Without giving away any secrets, I asked Abraham to describe her work.

I think it’s really transcendent,” he began. “I think one thing that is really exciting, in a way, is that in a lot of my work, we are looking at humanity and really making sure that you see people on stage. Andrea is in no way interested in that. And I love that. As dancers, as performers it’s great to be able to try these different worlds and really commit to them.”

But she (Miller) is saying all the transitions, she doesn’t want to see the humanity,” Abraham continued. “She wants it to have the exaggeration. I think she said the Godliness, this state of ritual, all these things kind of come up for her – and this, creation. I think that she’s thinking about the sublime and what does that word really evoke.”

Another of Abraham’s works that still sings in my mind is If We Were a Love Song set to and inspired by the songs of the iconic musician and singer, Nina Simone. This gorgeous work will also be on the program at The Wallis.

Abraham said that he had created two other solos to Simone’s work and that during the pandemic he began thinking about how he usually works with his company which is to send them videos of moments that they learn and he then puts reworks them when they are together again. “Even if we’re in our homes, we can still do that,” he recalled thinking. “I was mostly drawn to the idea of solos and duets.”

CAP UCLA - Kyle Abraham: Dearest Home - Photo by Reed Hutchinson

CAP UCLA – Kyle Abraham: Dearest Home – Photo by Reed Hutchinson

The opening section of If We Were a Love Song was put together after the pandemic when the company was finally able to gather together in the studio in 2021. “Prior to that it was only solos. The duet came together the first time we were able to actually touch.”

My final question to Abraham was whether or not there was anything he wanted our readers to know about the upcoming performances at The Wallis. He mentioned that there are some dancers who will be making their company debut and that he was really excited about the world premiere of Andrea Miller’s new work, YEAR.

This program in particular really helps to show the breath of the dancers in the company, their brilliant range of artistry. You have the subtlety of the work MotoRover or the pulsing Just Your Two Wrists, and If We Were a Love Song, my Nina Simone suite,” Abraham said. “And then you have the audaciousness of Year, the new Andrea Miller work. We’re hoping that people are open to the Yin and Yang aspect of how we are looking at this program.”

Abraham added that he is always curious when thinking about programming, how to not just introduce his work to an audience but how the audience feels when leaving the theater. He hopes that they will stay connected and inquisitive about what his company might be doing next.

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham performs at The Wallis February 9th at 7:30 pm and February 10th at 2:00 pm. Ticket prices begin at $49.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit The Wallis’ website.

For more information about A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, please visit their website.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in If Were a Love Song – Photo by Steven Pisano, courtesy of the company.