Kyle Abraham is a busy man. Over the past year or two, he’s created and performed a duet with Wendy Whelan’s Restless Creature tour, been commissioned by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, been presented by New York Live Arts with a host of new works and even received a no-strings-attached MacArthur Fellowship. It’s easy to understand, then – and not impossible to forgive him for – the undeniable rawness of his evening of works at the Joyce Theater in New York City.

Jeremy Jae Neal and Penda N'Diaye in <i>Absent Matter</i> © Sharon Bradford
Jeremy Jae Neal and Penda N'Diaye in Absent Matter
© Sharon Bradford

On opening night, Mr Abraham chose to begin with a short, improvisatory-seeming piece, Prelude, accompanied by Kris Bowers on piano, danced next to the piano on the ground level (quite near the audience) and performed by Mr Abraham himself. Watching him move liquidly through circular and swift port de bras felt first hypnotic and later, once the evening was over, like a gentle easing into Mr Abraham’s slithery, silky movement – and into his decidedly political take on dance.

Three pieces followed: The Quiet Dance (2011); Absent Matter (a New York première); and The Gettin’ (2014). The first, an exercise in juxtaposition with Connie Shiau performing an increasingly repetitive and rapid (though not mindlessly so) solo, slipped by with little staying power; the second was more memorable, but perhaps that is because it was something of a sensory overload: live music (a welcome treat) and video projection (by Naima Ramos Chapman) of protests jarred uneasily with the periodic, onstage removal of the black marley by stagehands to reveal white marley underneath.

Vinson Fraley in <i>The Quiet Dance</i> © Sharon Bradford
Vinson Fraley in The Quiet Dance
© Sharon Bradford
It was the third piece, The Getting’, which most held my attention. This time, the jazz band was onstage, upstage right. And though the movement and its synchronization still felt like a game of catch-up in which every dancer must unwillingly participate, I found myself admiring Mr Abraham’s ability to make his dancers appear like the jazzy music and video projection of racial injustice itself: jagged, hurried, skirting, relentless. A lengthy duet for Jeremy Jae Neal and Matthew Baker, fraught with a barely concealed tension, surprisingly held my interest. Ms Shiau hurled herself across the stage like a flaming cannonball, moving impossibly fast... and impossibly articulate.

It can be difficult for company dancers to mimic or – in the best-case scenario – adopt a choreographer’s idiosyncratic way of movement, but Mr Abraham has assembled a troupe of performers who, at the very least, easily transpose his fluid style onto their own bodies and, at best, transform it into something at once recognizable and unique. Mr Neal and Ms Shiau in particular stood out in this respect.