Performing Arts: Dance
August 16, 2022
Kyle Abraham's ambitious new work Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth is an "Afro- Futurist exploration of death, reincarnation, and the after-life" which certainly delivers in metaphysical splendor. The score—drawn from Mozart's Requiem in D minor—fits right in at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater, where jazz and classical music often find a home.

However, as pulsing bass so deep it makes vision tremble reverberates through the theater alongside choral voices, mixed live by the tremendously talented electronic musician Jlin, Mozart's work becomes a point of departure for the exploration of Requiem's epic themes.

Similarly, when the curtain rises on a stage strewn with ten dancers who undulate in Abraham's signature genre-bending style, balletic form serves as a base into which modern and Black social dance are folded. The dancers find elegant diagonals and extensions interspersed with organic twists and leans, all delivered with athleticism and grace. Their costumes, designed by Giles Deacon, are all soft colors and bunches of pleats forming skirts, loose pants, and even a stiff tutu -- all of which shuffle and bounce with fashionable panache.

Canons of choreography send the dancers oozing across the stage before it becomes a bare and bright space. In this sudden vacuum a lithe solo becomes a taut duet that evolves into a liquid trio before the full ensemble crashes back into the fray roiling in the nightclub lights. Violent seizures punctuate the performance, moments of collapse and spasm that disrupt the churn of choreography.

When a dancer falls prone and convulses their companions swiftly lift them from the floor as they are folded back into the throng. But before long, dancers pull away from the floor by their companions back into the thick of it.

Dan Scully's lighting design is excellent, with sharp lines and precise circles that cut through the hazy air in saturated neon colors. A particularly striking moment finds a footlight casting the dancer's shadows huge against the wall in angular silhouettes that overlap to make surprisingly soft shapes.

Throughout, a neon circlet floats above the heads of the dancers like a sun hanging low in the sky, and within it images swirl: Curling fingerprints, ink dripping in water, and upturned soil are projected into the dark hollow.

In the final moments rippling water alights there, superimposed over the face of a black child, who soon after wades knee-deep into a river. The dancers stand watching, their back facing the audience, as the curtain falls.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --- Noah Witke Mele

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