On the evening of my first day at CADD I saw my first ever Kyle Abraham/Abraham.in.Motion show. Throughout my dance studies at Spelman I have heard his name and saw clips of his work but it is a totally different experience to witness dance live with other people in the theatre.
“I began working on When the Wolves Came In after a visit to the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto, South Africa. While there, I became fixated on the power of perception, and the ways that the 13-year-old Pieterson’s death in an anti-Apartheid protest shines a spotlight on questions of personal choice and collective rights in the struggle for freedom. For Michael Brown, Tyler Clementi, Eric Garner, Islan Nettles, and the countless other faceless and nameless women and men facing violence and discrimination, these questions still have terrible resonance.”
When the Wolves Came In
When the lights came on I got excited seeing the all white stage space and then colorful people on stage. I didn’t understand the wigs at first but then I realized that it set the time period. The wigs were tall, dramatic, colorful, and theatrical. The music kept me engaged and focused on the movement, which was impeccable. The technique of the dancers was there without question, and I loved seeing the muscular bodies moving and suspending. With a mixed raced company I can’t help but think that everything has to do with the representation of race, which it did, sort of. I saw black women and white men dancing together on stage and a patriarchal image but then a subliminal image brought out that the black woman also carried the white man. After a while into the piece the white male dancer would place the black woman in the position of a dog and snap at her to come. I was sitting in my seat taken aback and uncomfortable at this image, that took me back to slavery and black women being concubines, an image I know to be true in history but it made me hot seeing it in the present, on stage. But it did spark emotion in me. Through out the piece wigs were being removed and humans and individuals were being seen.
Music: “I Told Jesus” by Bertha Gober and “City Called Heaven” by Cleo Kennedy. The songs helped tell the story of this piece, gave it a church vibe, which started off with Jeremy “Jae” Neal standing on stage and lamps being dropped from the ceiling and being caught by their wires at different levels. Neal would dance under these lamps and they acted as a spotlight. I noticed a play with gestures of the black street aesthetic and gestures that are known to be feminine, which could possibly change the sexuality of this character. Dancers Tamisha Guy and Catherine Ellis Kirk joined Neal on stage and they all danced in sync. I saw crumping, I saw my brother, I saw my grandmother in some of these movements, which evolved into ballet and modern techniques. I recognized an identity struggle and a unique narrative being told of a specific black man. This piece is a perfect example of what a reshaping of the image of Black Masculinity is today.
-Intermission- There was music playing pre show and during the intermission that was apart of the entire theatrical experience of When the Wolves Came In. (mostly jazz)
This final piece had projections as the backdrop, of videos and photos of Jim Crow South, Eric Garner being killed on the street, and many more images of the degradation of rights for African Americans past and present. The dancers were dressed in 60’s attire. I remember the image of half of the stage being a Blacks only sign on the projector and the other side Whites only and an Asian dancer, Connie Shiau, going OFF! between both sides. Then the image of two male dancers, one black and the other white dancing a duet that was powerful watching their power struggle, then they took their shirts off and they were bare, they were both human made of flesh. Music: Robert Glasper’s interpretation of We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite.
A post-performance discussion took place with Kyle Abraham, his company dancers and Thomas F. DeFrantz, you can watch the talk back at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGVm0rOBpt4