July 17, 2020
In 2015, Kyle Abraham and his company, A.I.M., burst into the British dance consciousness after presenting Pavement at Leicester’s Let’s Dance International Frontiers festival. The work demonstrates perfectly Abraham’s urban-style fusion of different genres of dance; and his focus on themes of social justice, hip-hop culture, and race.
And you don’t get much more topical right now than police discrimination, brutality and violence, issues brought to the fore yet again recently by the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. That Meditation: A Silent Prayer should be presented online the same day as disturbing footage of a Metropolitan Police arrest emerged, with an officer apparently using a similar knee on neck restraint as led to Floyd’s death, just makes it extra relevant.
Made in 2018, the short work for six dancers does indeed have the feeling of a prayer. Abraham is noted for sharpness and heightened use of dynamics in his work but not here. Instead and against mournful strings by Craig Harris and the voice of Carrie Mae Weems, the dancers float through the darkness that surrounds them.
All the time, there is an overwhelming sense of them trying to cope with their loss and grief and come terms with what has happened. The comfort each other as they try to understand. Often, they twist and turn as if moved by gentle but powerful unseen currents. They melt into the floor and rise again. It’s luscious.
Abraham’s dance is startlingly beautiful, but it would not have the same impact without Weems’ words. She reels off the ages of victims. “She was 25, he was 22. She was 31, he was 25…” All are young, one just 9 years old. Weems reminds us they were a mother sister, wife, father, brother, husband, child. Later comes audio taken from one video that captured a police shooting. Not everyone may have heard of names like Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown and Philando Castile (and maybe that says something in itself) that follow, but we understand.
The proceedings are watched over by three enormous faces designed by Titus Kaphar, each with other faces drawn into them, that honour the lives being remembered.
Even online, it’s quite a sensory and deeply moving experience. The calmness of Meditation: A Silent Prayer is in stark contrast to recent events but as a call for action it is equally powerful. It may be only ten minutes but you will struggle to find anything more hard-hitting in the current streamings.
A.I.M. in Kyle Abrahams’ Meditation: A Silent Prayer is available on The Joyce Theater YouTube channel to August 14, 2020.