When Abraham.In.Motion (A.I.M.) makes its Ohio debut Saturday night in Akron, audiences can expect to see a style of dance that’s not quite like anything they’ve seen before.
Artistic director Kyle Abraham, who founded the predominantly African-American company in 2006, uses movement to delve into personal identity, race and social justice issues. Abraham, who has a hip-hop and classical music background, also uses visual art in his choreographic collaborations. In 2013, he was the youngest person ever to become a MacArthur Fellow “genius” for his fearlessness in tackling weighty subject matter through his choreography.
“Kyle is so unique right now in the dance world,’’ said Pam Young, executive director of DanceCleveland, which is presenting A.I.M. in its single Akron concert.
She stressed that his work looks through a social and political lens.
“I think a lot of artists across all genres are feeling the need to create work that challenges what’s going on in our society. … Kyle has always done that, and he has a very distinct kind of style.”
Among the four works the nine-member company will perform at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron is Abraham’s “Meditation: A Silent Prayer,’’ an original dance about police violence against young black men. The dance references the lost lives of African-Americans Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and others in a recorded poem by artist Carrie Mae Weems. The piece is accompanied by a visual of faces layered over one another on a scrim as well as music by Craig Harris.
“I just felt we needed to bring that piece here,’’ said Young, who said this work inspired her to bring A.I.M. to Northeast Ohio.
Abraham doesn’t normally tour with his company unless he’s performing his solo “Indy,” which he’ll do in Akron. Young saw it in New York and described as a “very personal-feeling about relationships.”
“He’s playful in it. You sort of see his personality and then he sort of dissolves in sort of a high level of distress and sadness and sort of comes back out of it,’’ she said.
Other works will be Israeli choreographer Andrea Miller’s new dance “State” for three women and the high-energy “Drive” by Abraham, which was highly acclaimed when it premiered in New York last year.
“The dancing is all out,’’ so it’s a pretty amazing closer,” Young said.
Tied to the company’s performance next weekend, A.I.M. will be on the ground starting Monday with a full-week residency at the University of Akron Dance Program, with company members taking over all of the modern and ballet classes for the week. It’s the 13th year that DanceCleveland has kicked off its season in Akron in conjunction with the professional performing company conducting a residency with UA students.
Through both formal and informal interactions, the students learn from these pros not only artistically but also about what it’s like to have a professional dancer career. UA’s upper-level modern and ballet students will get to take modern classes from Abraham himself. And students also will get to observe Abraham at work in rehearsal with his company members Wednesday afternoon.
He also will offer a pre-performance discussion at 6:45 p.m. and the company will take part in a question-and-answer session after the show. Company member Tamisha Guy also will conduct a free contemporary master class for advanced dancers ages 16 and up from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Guzzetta Hall. Reservations are required at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/aim-dance-master-class-tickets-50129745418?aff=efbeventtix.
Here’s the full DanceCleveland season schedule:
• Ballet Hispanico, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 and 3 p.m. Nov. 11 at Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square, in collaboration with Tri-C. The New York company, led by artistic director Eduardo Vilaro, will perform three works by Latina choreographers.
• Beijing Dance Theater, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 and 2 p.m. Feb. 3, 2019, Ohio Theatre, in collaboration with Tri-C and the Cleveland Public Library. The mixed-repertory company will make its Ohio debut.
• Vertigo Dance Company, 7:30 p.m. March 9, Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square. The Israeli contemporary company, making its first trip to Ohio, will perform the sensory piece “One. One & One,’’ in which the performers lay soil down in rows and then dance across it, spreading it out over the stage. The piece is a new work by artistic director Noa Wertheim.
• Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 8 p.m. April 26-27, 3 p.m. April 28, State Theatre, Playhouse Square, presented by Playhouse Square in collaboration with DanceCleveland. One of the greatest dance companies in the world, Alvin Ailey is returning to Playhouse Square for the first time in three years.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.