The subject of choreographer Kyle Abraham’s new work is clear from the title. Although the dance celebrates the extraordinariness and complexity of love (specifically self-love and Black love), its ‘untitled’ nature means it also speaks universally to ordinary, everyday love.
As the narrative (such as it is) unspools across a day and night, we are introduced to ten dancers who prowl the stage, occasionally springing into brief, playful routines or coalescing in gossipy groups. Between them, numerous forms of loving relationships are expressed, from groups of mates to platonic friendships to queer and straight couples at various points in their relationships.
The dancing itself is a complex mixture of classical, jazz, and hip-hop, as the dancers intertwine and switch partners at will. It is strongly performed throughout, but the standout dancer is Keerati Jinakunwiphat, whose precision, poise, and power draw the eye whenever she is on stage. Underneath the performance, D’Angelo’s soulful R&B reinforces the messages of unity and love expressed on stage.
Although the production starts ponderously (with the exception of a superb number performed entirely in slow motion early on), it rises to a tremendous peak towards its close. Three consecutive pieces – an ensemble referencing the unlawful deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers, a duet between two lovers, and an anguished solo piece – are truly breath-taking.
The ensemble piece is hard to watch, a carefully choreographed nightmare of struggling and choking. In the duet, the two dancers (Catherine Kirk and Martell Ruffin) spar and embrace across a searing line of light right at the front of the stage, never quite embracing, never quite pulling away. Perhaps most effective of all is Ruffin’s solo. Kirk drifts away into the darkness, leaving Ruffin’s half-lit body to writhe alone in the pain of lost or unrequited love.
It is just a shame that the performance as a whole does not contain more sustained dancing like this. Too often in the early stages, the flashes of dance are interrupted by long periods of the performers sitting on a sofa (the only concession to a set on stage), or standing gossiping in groups. There are even snatches of voiceover to help us understand the narrative, which feels a waste when there are talented dancers poised to tell the story physically.
However, when the dancers are let loose and allowed to display their considerable abilities, the show really does shine. There might not be quite enough dancing to be wholly satisfactory across its brief, 70-minute runtime, but it is truly superb.
- Dance Theatre
- Choreography: Kyle Abraham in collaboration with A.I.M
- Music: D’Angelo & The Vanguard
- Photo credit: Christopher Duggan
- Cast includes:Tamisha A. Guy, Claude C J Johnson
- King’s Theatre, Edinburgh (EIF 2022)
- Running time: 70 minutes (no interval)
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