Contemporary dance can be one of the more mystifying art forms, but that’s also its allure — at least to me. I find it freeing to admit my translational insufficiencies, and rather than trying to decipher what a performance or piece of choreography is trying to articulate, I simply surrender to the pleasure of movement. That’s easy to do in the thrall of dancers as masterful and expressive as Kyle Abrahams’s company, A.I.M.
Their Saturday matinee performance at the Emmett Robinson Theatre was captivating on all levels — from stage aesthetics, particularly the artful lighting, to music (or lack thereof), to a solid corps of dancers, each with unfiltered personality and each fully in command of their parts while displaying an uncanny chemistry with one another. The sensual magnetism and tension between Tamisha Guy and Jae Neal in a duet presented second in the program was downright electric.
The aim of A.I.M. (which derives from Abraham in Motion) is to create evocative interdisciplinary work. Abraham, as choreographer and artistic director, distills essential spirits from hip hop to Motown to classical ballet to create a motion cocktail that intoxicates and delights the senses. The opening “Strict Love,” a 1994 piece by choreographer Doug Varone, mixes nostalgia — thanks to archival radio clips from a 1970s Top 20 Countdown (how Bread, at #11, inexplicably topped Diana Ross’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” at #12, folks from the 70s will have to answer to) — with futuristic robotic staccato, morphs in to a soulful, playful dance. It’s all you can do to not sing along.
In jarring contrast, the strong rhythm and harmony-driven opener is followed by “Dearest Home,” the duet mentioned above, with stunning choreography set to silence. Lighting helps keep time, doubling as a bass-line, and Tamisha Guy’s piercing red shirt adds its own element of counterpunch, meanwhile the two dancers bring all the lyricism and melody needed. It’s body language at its best, and when the curtain call came, dancer Jae Neal’s dad, sitting at the end of my row, burst into proud applause. “That’s my boy,” he couldn’t help but cry out; the only problem was every audience member wanted to claim him, too.
The last two pieces, “The Quiet Dance” set to the spare yet lush Bill Evans piano, and “Drive” featuring driving heavy bass by Mobb Deep and Theo Parrish, were another dynamic juxtaposition: one a celebration of delicate, small flourish, and “Drive” a robust, screw-the-clutch urban rumble.
All told, the company’s impressive creative range was clear, yet the program was cohesive and meaningful, even if this reviewer can’t fully articulate what the meaning might be. Except that bodies in motion have a power and majesty that defies language, and that’s meaning enough. Plus, there were two justifiably ecstatic parents a few seats over, and that needed no translation. The audiences’ final standing ovation seemed as much for them as for the dancers.