Dance review: Kyle Abraham's 'Radio Show' at REDCAT
Onstage at the REDCAT, New York-based choreographer Kyle Abraham is dancing a sublimely funky R&B solo with such perfect panache that it's a shock when he suddenly pauses, his head sadly nodding, one hand twitching, as if his soul train had become suddenly, irrevocably derailed.
The back of his shirt is slashed and torn, the recorded music chopped into a collage of fragments, and the sense of continuity -- social as well as personal -- fractured beyond repair. Welcome to “The Radio Show,” Abraham's nonlinear 75-minute action-painting of contemporary America that opened Wednesday for a four-performance run.
Abraham's feelings about the closure of a Pittsburgh radio station and his father's descent into Alzheimer's shaped the piece, but its sense of displacement and loss transcends specifics. One moment Elyse Morris will exult in her high-voltage virtuosity and the next her control will shatter into violent spasms or a mournful stillness. Intimacy between Rena Butler and Chalvar Monteiro looks promising but hasn't a chance. And Hsiao-Jou Tang doesn't even struggle against the changes she sees in herself. Her meditative solo-in-silence is mostly about resignation.
With few exceptions, the pervasive movement style is so bold and even fearless that you might not spot the intricacy of the choreography until the whole seven-member company dances in pluperfect unison. Indeed, matched moves make the second half of the piece an exciting company showpiece -- but often at the cost of the thematic rigor of Part 1.
There are a few intimations of Abraham's initial premise (his twitching hand just before the final fade-out, for example). But mostly you'll find a more literal approach to the selected songs along with an audience-participation segment conveying the forced jollity of a call-in radio show. It's all entertaining, one way or another, but not as remarkable as the deeply mournful vision brilliantly physicalized early on.
In addition to the dancers mentioned, the company includes Rachelle Rafailedes and Maleek Mahkail Washington. Dan Scully designed a lighting plan that subjects the dancers to moments of painful isolation as well as glaring assault. Somber music by Amber Lee Parker supplements the pop tracks dominating the evening.
-- Lewis Segal
Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion: “The Radio Show,” REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., downtown L.A. 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. $20 and $25. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org.
Photo: A scene from Kyle Abraham's"The Radio Show." Credit: Steven Schreiber.