Kyle Abraham’s A.I.M opened the Lar Lubovitch-curated NY Quadrille at the Joyce with Dearest Home, a deeply personal work. The idea of the Quadrille is to conjure up the modern equivalent of an 18th century French dance event which placed the performance in the middle of a rectangle of onlookers. Forcing the format into a 21st century theater, however, is tricky. I never lost the feeling that I was sitting on the stage of the Joyce Theater watching a show from a different point of view that didn’t quite approximate the feeling of an audience surrounding the dancers. We were either in the theater’s fixed seats or we were sitting on the stage with the performance taking place on a temporary platform that jutted out into the usual seating space. The requirement of surrounding the performance was not fulfilled. It was different but not transformative. The concept would probably have been more effective in a location that wasn’t already dedicated to traditional theater with a proscenium and therefore not overladen with preconception.

Tamisha Guy of A.I.M. in Dearest Home
© Steven Pisano

Dearest Home was performed without music and featured a beautiful performance by Catherine Ellis Kirk who moved with eloquent, expressive grace. Kirk is that special type of dancer who draws you to her without being flashy. She moves with such purpose that you can see the lines of her passing well after she has moved on to the next phrase. There’s real power in her fully present and vibrant dancing. Tamisha Guy danced with taut, controlled ferocity. In her duet with Jeremy Neal, she was mercurial and given to inexplicable outbursts of anger. Kayla Farrish was affecting in her dancing, especially in her trio with Matthew Baker and Marcella Lewis. In all of the solos and pairings, there was passion and energy even though I didn’t love all of it.

I don’t believe that I’m prudish but I am ambivalent about nudity in dance. I rarely think it adds anything vital to a performance. Too often, we’re subjected to the tyranny of the supposedly more broad-minded European point of view that says nudity is natural and shouldn’t be a big deal. To object is to cast oneself as a provincial. In Abraham’s piece, the dancers begin fully clothed and gradually shed clothing until the very end when Jeremy Neal performs nude under a dim overhead light. The device of shedding clothing to symbolize exposure of inner selves is well-worn and perhaps too obvious here, but Neal’s solo in this context was beautiful. He was revealed in sculptural form. Less successful was Matthew Baker’s solo in which he got himself all worked up and burst into tears. He ran around the stage in a frenzy of emotional outburst that needed to be curtailed. Sadly, it went on too long and he continued wailing long after he left the stage. It came across more like emotional vomiting than sincerely felt because there was no apparent reason for his crying jag. There needs to be a narrative to justify such extravagant carrying on.

Tamisha Guy and Marcella Lewis of A.I.M. in Dearest Home
© Steven Pisano

Kyle Abraham just had the premiere of his well-reviewed The Runaway at New York City Ballet’s Fall Fashion Gala and this solo show at the The Joyce. It will be interesting to see what he does with his suddenly much higher profile. He has fine dancers to work with and deep sensitivity. He’s a choreographer worth watching.