Kyle Abraham’s choreography stands at the crossroads of his classical training in music and the hip-hop rhythms of his childhood in Pittsburgh. Trained at SUNY Purchase and the NYU Tisch School for the Arts, he went on to found the dance company Abraham.In.Motion. He has created avant-garde works for clients like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and has performed at dance festivals across the United States. In 2012 Abraham was named a Resident Commission Artist 2012-2014 for New York Live Arts, where he will work with other accomplished artists to create work that will premiere at the end of his time there. He is currently touring his work “Pavement,” and stopped by Cambridge on Thursday to teach a master class at the Harvard Dance Center.
The Harvard Crimson: Let’s start with the basics—what first got you interested in choreography?
Kyle Abraham: I started dancing in my room…. I wanted to find out more about my movements. I wanted to elaborate on whatever it was that I was doing there. [I was] dancing in my room and then I got curious about learning more about it.
THC: What was your inspiration for “Pavement?”
KA:[I was] looking at what world a black person lives in and looking at the goals of the community. I’m thinking, generally thinking, about my hometown—about what I was in 1981, my freshman year of high school, thinking about the change of laws and the impact on the community, and about a lot of jazz legends, their work, and about the changes that had happened by 1981…. A lot of those [old jazz bars and venues] were already boarded up and dilapidated. I’m looking at those buildings, thinking about society and how we all feel about it.
THC: And how do you express those feelings through choreography?
KA: I guess it’s hard work...whatever the decision is, how to show it to people that aren’t necessarily dancers, how to get people to think about more than themselves. It’s more interesting to hear people from all walks of life…. As dance-makers we’re always struggling to find how movement correlates to the client’s voice.
THC: What are your favorite works that you’ve choreographed?
KA: “Pavement” is one of my favorites, [but] I feel emotionally connected with other work, [like] “A Radio Show,” [which is about] both my family and our history, and also urban radio and the demise of the first urban radio stations. It’s very nostalgic, in a lot of ways, and is obviously a very emotional subject.
THC: What challenges do you face in your choreography?
KA: What comes into conversation on a learning [basis] are fundamental issues with dyslexia that [find their] way into me taking classwork…. I have a hard time doing it slow in class, because when the teachers break down the material very slowly, I just can’t do it…. If they go through it very quickly, that’s the only way it will work for me…. I’ll figure it out, and then I’ll do it.