Electronic dance

Kyle Abraham’s AIM review – a gender-defying image of life and hope | Dance

Vvery few choreographers can transition so deftly between the lofty and the familiar in a single phrase, from pirouette to punch with total authenticity. But Kyle Abraham can. The linguistic versatility of the New York-based choreographer – absorbing elements of classical, contemporary, street and social dance – is matched by the thematic variety of his decade-long output, exquisite collaborations with ballet companies (most recently The Weathering by The Royal Ballet) to hard-hitting dances of social commentary and activism with his own company AIM.

Now this piece, Requiem, is something else again, although it’s hard to say what. It’s a leap into Afrofuturism, punctuated by a version of Mozart’s Requiem renovated by electronic composer Jlin in sampled strings and reverberating bass. Ten dancers are dressed in silky, flowing tunics and skirts by Giles Deacon. At times, their behavior suggests courtly manners or the games of mythical gods, amused with combat and performance rituals. A circle of neon lights up on the far wall, inside a film showing ink swirling in water. Circles are ubiquitous in the choreography – gently waving and twirling – and also in one of the ideas behind the piece: reincarnation and the circularity of life. Sometimes the bodies tremble and fall to the ground, but they are revived and return to dance, regenerated. It is a deliberate counterpoint to Abrahams’ earlier works that dealt with violence against black bodies; it is a picture of life and hope and possibility.

The hour-long piece feels rather formless, however, with subtle shifts in tone between musical chapters. It’s meandering at times, but there’s an enigmatic plot. Choreography often lives in a middle ground between earth and air, not sending its energy deep into the ground nor stretching or leaping skyward: it sweeps and swoops with flexible joints .

There are strong solos from individual dancers: Dymon Samara has a distinct presence, Logan Fernandez throws in some breaking moves, there’s the supple muscle and purpose of Jae Neal, and a Queen Tamisha Guy, catching the eye with a hypnotic sweetness. Requiem conveys feelings of community, connection, playfulness, humor and flirtation – all facets of a rich life – but it’s an exploratory piece rather than a triumphant one.