This Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7, the Contemporary Arts Center’s raw art warehouse will be transformed to an outdoor basketball court suspended in time, alive with Bessie Award-winning choreographer Kyle Abraham’s Abraham.In.Motion dancers for a piece he calls “Pavement.” For just two special performances, Abraham and company bring their unique brand of human sport to the metaphoric stage, set in New Orleans’ Warehouse District, where the lines between game, rivalry, violence and communication all seem to become blurred.
A Pittsburgh, PA native and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Kyle Abraham is a 2013 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant for dance and choreography. As a MacArthur and National Performance Network partner, the CAC of New Orleans presents select MacArthur fellows throughout the year, providing a series of multi-media shows as diverse as they are mesmerizing. The Abraham.In.Motion shows this weekend are a part of this series.
Abraham uses his medium of contemporary dance to investigate the state of Black America in a reflection of his personal experience growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1990s. Through the simple setting of a neighborhood basketball court, he presents young, urban male communication on this pavement in a way that both challenges and explores how we perceive Black men in America, and how they see each other.
Abraham has been one of the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s recent buzz members, debuting his work, “Another Night,” to rave reviews at the New York City Center last year, and is now touring his MacArthur project, “Pavement.” The story behind “Pavement” is not necessarily a new one, but rather its lens and delivery of a kind that seem to transcend time and space. Reimagined as a dance work and now set in Pittsburgh’s historically black neighborhoods, Homewood and the Hill District, Abraham says, “‘Pavement’ aims to create a strong emotional chronology of a culture conflicted with a history plagued by discrimination, genocide, and a constant quest for a lottery ticket weighted in freedom.”
Upon review of the synopsis alone, the piece already speaks of a “West Side Story” meets “Boyz N the Hood” motif. The stage is set as two rivaling neighborhoods from Abraham’s Pittsburgh youth, the Homewood and Hill districts, experience parallel histories, but meet as adversaries one day on the basketball court. “Both experienced a cultural shift in the 1950s when jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performed at local theaters and Billy Strayhorn spent most of his teenage years. Over a century later, those same theaters are now dilapidated. And the streets that once strived on family run businesses and a thriving jazz scene now show the sad effects of gang violence and crack cocaine,” the prelude says.
Born into the hip-hop generation of the late 1970s, and coming of age during the crack epidemic of urban America, Abraham himself explains, “in 1991, I was fourteen and entering the ninth grade at Schenley High School in the historic Hill District of Pittsburgh. That same year, John Singleton’s film, “Boyz N The Hood” was released. For me, the film depicted an idealized “Gangsta Boheme” laying aim to the state of the Black American male at the end of the 20th century. Twenty years later and more than ten years into the 21st century, I am focused on investigating the state of Black America and a history therein.”
This Friday and Saturday evening (December 6-7), rather than present this experimental work of contemporary dance in typical fashion on the stage of the Freeport-McMoRan Theater, Abraham.In.Motion will turn the open CAC Warehouse space into this Pittsburgh basketball court, where audiences may witness what happens on the “Pavement” unfold in living color.
Both performances of “Pavement” take place at the CAC Warehouse (adjoined to the CAC gallery at 900 Camp Street) with showtimes at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 for general admission (bleacher seating), or $25 – $30 for CAC members and season pass holders. Tickets are available online here or via the CAC box office.
Doors are at 7:00 p.m. and CAC members receive early seating opportunity beginning at that time, general admission seating beginning at 7:30 p.m. The SPUN Café inside the CAC is open one hour prior to showtimes for coffee, cocktails and snacks. “Pavement” also offers free popcorn for all ticket holders. For more information, visit the www.cacno.org or call 504-528-3800.