Tag Archives: Kyle Abraham

Dancers Responding to AIDS 2020 Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival

Photo by Scott Shaw

July 14, 2020

Watch an unforgettable evening of world-class dance with the Virtual Fire Island Dance Festival this Friday, July 17 at 7 pm Eastern. Register for the free stream.
The evening is set to include three world premieres:

  • Celebrated modern tap dancer Ayodele Casel’s Oscar Joy, an effervescent solo performed by Casel from her home dance studio, Original Tap House in the Bronx.
  • KEIGWIN + COMPANY artistic director Larry Kiegwin’s When the Sun Comes Out, performed by socially distanced dancers, locals and supporters across Fire Island.
  • Stephen Petronio Company artistic director Stephen Petronio’s Are You Lonesome Tonight, a stunning duet filmed at his private residency center in Round Top, NY.

The premieres are part of a program featuring festival favorites by MacArthur “Genius” Grant fellow Kyle Abraham, Emmy Award nominee Al Blackstone and dancer and acclaimed choreographer Garrett Smith. These pieces were filmed last year on the event’s signature waterfront stage overlooking Fire Island’s Great South Bay.
The virtual festival is made possible with generous support from Presenting Sponsors Paul Austin & Dalip Girdhar.
Donations made until 11 pm Eastern on Monday, July 20, will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000 by DIRECTV. Register to Watch

If you are unable to attend but would like to support, donate here.

© 2020 Dancers Responding to AIDS. All Rights Reserved
165 West 46th Street, Suite 1300 | New York, New York 10036 | 212.840.0770

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Announces Updates to its 2020-2021 Season & the Promotion of Three Dancers

By  Katie Drozynski

PBT’s updated 2020-2021 Season will include performances rescheduled due to the coronavirus. 

Cooper Verona and Marisa Grywalski. Photo by Duane Rieder. 

PITTSBURGH (April 22, 2020) – Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) has announced updates to its upcoming 2020-2021 Season in response to programs rescheduled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis that forced the closure of non-essential businesses, including PBT and the Cultural Trust venues in which the company performs.

In March, PBT announced the postponement of BNY Mellon presents “Here + Now,” a mixed-repertory production featuring works by Pittsburgh-native Kyle Abraham, longtime PBT collaborator Dwight Rhoden, renowned Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato and the world-premier of an original piece by PBT Artist in Residence Staycee Pearl, sponsored by AE&E Fund. Shortly thereafter, the company also postponed its performances of “Balanchine + Tchaikovsky” with the PBT Orchestra, a program featuring choreography by George Balanchine set to the music of P.I. Tchaikovksy.

Both BNY Mellon presents “Here + Now” and “Balanchine + Tchaikovsky” have been incorporated into PBT’s upcoming 2020-2021 Season. The season will now feature a total of six programs, beginning with “Balanchine + Tchaikovsky” with the PBT Orchestra in October. “Cinderella” with the PBT Orchestra, originally scheduled as the season opener, has been rescheduled for February, replacing “The Merry Widow.” BNY Mellon presents “Here + Now” will be featured at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in April, alongside the “Modern Masters” program.

Ticket holders for the two rescheduled programs will be contacted by PBT via email and by phone to discuss options for attending these performances. Patrons who have already subscribed to PBT’s 2020-2021 Season will also be contacted by PBT to discuss options to add the sixth program to their package.

Single tickets to PBT’s 2020-2021 start at $28 and will be available this August at www.pbt.org or 412-456-6666. Subscription packages start at $81 at www.pbt.org or 412-454-9107 and offer 20 percent savings over single tickets and a variety of subscriber benefits. Complete show descriptions and run dates can be found below.

Company Promotions

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has also announced the promotion of three corps de ballet dancers to the rank of soloist for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2020-2021 Season.

Dancers Tommie Lin Kesten of Pittsburgh; Lucius Kirst of Los Angeles; and Jessica McCann of Los Angeles will begin their first mainstage season as soloists this fall with “Cinderella,” with the PBT Orchestra on stage Oct. 23-25 at the Benedum Center.

About PBT’s Newest Soloists

Tommie Lin Kesten

Pittsburgh native Tommie Lin Kesten joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2018 from PBT’s Graduate Program, where she trained for a year. Tommie was named one of Pointe Magazine’s “Stars of the Corps” in 2019 and Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2020. She received her early training from The Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh and Miami City Ballet School, and completed summer intensives at the School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet and PBT School. Tommie has performed Sugar Plum Fairy in PBT’s “The Nutcracker,” Bluebird Pas de Deux in “The Sleeping Beauty,” and Peasant Pas de Deux in “Giselle.” Her repertoire also includes George Balanchine’s “Walpurgisnacht,” “Valse Fantaisie,” “Western Symphony,” “Divertimento No. 15” and Tall Girl in “Rubies,” as well as Jerome Robbins’ “Glass Pieces.”

Lucius Kirst 

A native of Los Angeles, Lucius Kirst joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2014. Kirst previously performed with Ballet San Jose as a member of the corps de ballet and was also a member of the Studio Company at American Ballet Theatre. Kirst trained on full scholarship at The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre in New York City, and received his early training at City Ballet School in San Francisco and Marin Ballet in California. He has participated in summer intensive programs at American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet.

Jessica McCann

Jessica McCann, of Los Angeles, joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2015. Her past training includes a year with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet in San Francisco and American Ballet Theatre in New York, before joining PBT’s Pre-Professional Program in 2013. Since joining the company, McCann was chosen for Pointe Magazine’s top 10 “Stars of the Corps” in 2016. She has performed many featured roles at PBT, including Principal Couple in George Balanchine’s “Rubies;” the lead in William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated;” Blue Bird Pas de Deux, Diamond Variation, the Fairy of Abundance and Canary Fairy in Terrence S. Orr’s “The Sleeping Beauty;” Pas de Trois and Cygnets in Orr’s “Swan Lake;” Peasant Pas de Duex and Zulma demi soloist in Orr’s “Giselle;” Anita in “West Side Story Suite” and the First Girl in “Fancy Free” by Jerome Robbins; Dwight Rhoden’s “Ava Maria;” and the Sugar Plum Fairy, Marie, Arabian and Snow Queen in Orr’s “The Nutcracker.”

Other memorable performances include Jiří Kylián’s “Petite Mort,” “Sechs Tänze” and “Sinfonietta;” the Pas de Duex in Nacho Duato’s “Duende;” the soloist in Kyle Abraham’s “The Quiet Dance;” Spring Waters Pas de Deux; the Cook in Derek Deane’s “Alice in Wonderland;” a Harlot in Derek Deane’s “Romeo and Juliet;” and an Odalisque in “Le Corsaire.” McCann has also performed in George Balanchine’s “Allegro Brillante,” “Divertimento No.15” and “Western Symphony;” Antony Tudor’s “Jardin Aux Lilas;” Mark Morris’ “Sandpaper Ballet;” Ben Stevenson’s “Dracula;” as well as PBT’s “La Bayadère,” and Lew Christensen’s “Beauty and The Beast. For its 2017-2018 main-stage season, PBT commissioned McCann to choreograph a new work, “the silver line.,” which made its world premiere in March 2018. She has also created “Amoeba,” a new work for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Graduate Program that premiered at the School’s end-of-year showcase in 2019.

McCann has done guest performance outside of the U.S. in Japan and Bermuda, where she has both danced and choreographed. She was also asked to judge the World Dream Ballet Competition in Osaka, Japan in 2018.

PBT’s 2020-2021 Season

“Balanchine + Tchaikovsky” with the PBT Orchestra
Oct. 23-25, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography: George Balanchine | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s storied history with Balanchine and Tchaikovsky is revived in this mixed-repertory production celebrating two of ballet’s greatest contributors. The music of P.I. Tchaikovsky has provided the backbone for many of George Balanchine’s most exquisite ballets, including the invigorating “Theme and Variations,” the expansive “Allegro Brillante” and the consummate “Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux,” set to the classic music of “Swan Lake.” This program event also features “Diamonds,” the brilliant third movement of Balanchine’s “Jewels.”

“The Nutcracker”
Dec. 4-27, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography & Concept: Terrence S. Orr | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

The magic of the holiday season fills the Benedum Center stage in The Nutcracker. PBT’s Pittsburgh-inspired production captures the excitement of the original story through five fanciful scenes, over 150 unique costumes and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. With a rotating cast of dozens of dancers, each performance provides a fresh experience to audiences and artists alike.

“Cinderella” with the PBT Orchestra

Feb. 12-14, 2021 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Kent Stowell | Music: Sergei Prokofiev

A classic fairy tale is renewed with romance at its core in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre premier of Kent Stowell’s Cinderella. Attend the royal ball with Cinderella, her wicked step sisters and her prince as the familiar tale of true love unfolds through grand theatrical scenery, glittering costumes and Prokofiev’s splendid score.

BNY Mellon presents “Here + Now” ft. Kyle Abraham, Dwight Rhoden, Nacho Duato and PBT Artist in Residence Staycee Pearl, sponsored by AE&E Fund

April 8-11, 2021 — August Wilson African American Cultural Center
In partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center

Choreography & Music: Mixed Repertory

This mixed-repertory production brings together celebrated choreographers to create stunning dance for the here and now in the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. “The Quiet Dance,” from Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham, captures the feelings of frustration and isolation through sweeping movement, beginning in silence and then carried by the gentleness of Bill Evans’ arrangement of Bernstein’s “Some Other Time.” The beloved popular music of Paul Simon sets the stage for Dwight Rhoden’s physical and visceral “Simon Said.” Finally, local choreographer Staycee Pearl presents the world premier of “Skin + Saltwater,” a visionary piece created for the PBT Company.

“Modern Masters” ft. Mark Morris, Nacho Duato and More

April 15-18, 2021 — August Wilson African American Cultural Center
In partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center

Choreography & Music: Mixed Repertory
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre returns to the August Wilson African American Cultural Center with a mixed-repertory program featuring Mark Morris’ exultant Maelstrom, set to Beethoven’s Ghost Trio. Nacho Duato puts the music of Claude Debussy at the center of his enchanting Duende, fluidly melding the human form and the shape of sound to create a magical landscape. The final piece of the performance will be chosen by PBT’s incoming artistic director, Susan Jaffe.

“Alice in Wonderland”
May 7-16, 2021 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Derek Deane | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky, additional music by Carl Davis

Step into a surreal world of outlandish illusion, dreamlike scenery and your favorite Lewis Carroll characters in Derek Deane’s “Alice in Wonderland.” A whimsical medley of Tchaikovsky’s music provides the perfect backdrop to the madness of deranged tea parties, unhinged games of croquet and extraordinary dance. Don’t miss the madcap ballet the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls an “old-fashioned romp through [the] British classic, ripe with an over-the-top music hall flavor.”


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Abraham Takes ‘A.I.M’ at Greatness with Akron Program


A.I.M’s Connie Shiau, Claude Johnson and Catherine Ellis Kirk in Kyle Abraham’s “Drive”. Photo by Ian Douglas.

University of Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall
Akron, Ohio
October 6, 2018

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Having followed Kyle Abraham’s career since he was a teen in Pittsburgh, his talents and potential as a dancer and choreographer revealed themselves early on. Seemingly in short order, the dance world began taking notice of those talents lauding him with accolades and awards including being named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2009 and becoming the youngest recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant 2013. And while Abraham’s individual career continues to skyrocket, the trajectory of his namesake New York-based company, Abraham.In.Motion (A.I.M), founded in 2006, has been on a more gradual incline.

For those unfamiliar with A.I.M and Abraham’s work, their Northeast, Ohio debut at the University of Akron’s E. J. Thomas Hall this past Saturday, October 6, showed rather emphatically that it the company is primed to run with dance’s big dogs.

Presented by DANCECleveland in collaboration with The University of Akron’s Dance Department, A.I.M’s mixed repertory program began with a company first, a dance work created on them by someone other than Abraham.

Choreographer Andrea Miller’s lush, atmospheric trio for women, “state” (2018) had the look and feel of a Beyoncé music video taken to even further artistic extremes.


A.I.M’s Kayla Farrish, Catherine Ellis Kirk and Marcella Lewis in Andrea Miller’s “state”. Photo by Steven Schreiber.

On a stage barely lit by rear floor lights dancers Kayla Farrish, Catherine Ellis Kirk and Marcella Lewis in silhouette with their backs to the audience, shuffled side to side grooving to Pittsburgh-native Reggie Wilkins’ electronic chill vibe hip hop music.

Miller, the artistic director and vision behind New York’s Gallim Dance, is best known for her Israeli-style contemporary dance works. In working with the dancers on “state,” Miller acted more as a director/editor taking movement generated by them and assembling it into a brilliantly unexpected piece that wrapped around the dancers like a cozy sweater.

Performed on an earth-tone square of dance floor with the dancers costumed in muted colored tops and shorts with shiny gold painted patches on their knees and fingers, the contemporary dance work infused with African, hip hop, Israeli folk and other dance styles, looked ritualistic at times as well as exalting of the women. Parceled into sections reflecting various states of being both emotionally and attitudinally, the dancers moved mostly in unison throughout the work, rocking, bouncing and swaying in simple-looking yet slick choreography.

Where the work’s opening section had the trio of women appearing goddess-like, its second section with its sparse and somewhat ugly movement that had the dancers crab-walking and lying on the stage floor in fetal positions had a troubled feel to it.

AIM_state_Marcella+Lewis_Photo+by+Steven+Schreiber_01 (1)

A.I.M’s Marcella Lewis in Andrea Miller’s “state”. Photo by Steven Schreiber.

The work then shifted moods several more times as it progressed with one section showing off the dancers in mini-solos before returning to its infectious opening groove to end the piece.

Keeping with the theme of states of being, Abraham’s latest solo for himself “INDY” (2018), at over 20-minutes is perhaps his longest to date. Like avant-garde jazz or the music of bands like the Pixies and Nirvana that abruptly switch from hard to soft passages in the same song, Abraham’s signature movement style moves abruptly from sinewy smooth, calm phrases to frenetic, hyper-speed riffs that have his arms circling and darting about, hips swiveling and torso twisting in the blink of an eye and back again. In “INDY,” Abraham came right out of the gate in that full-on frenzy mode, a flurry of hands and arms clearing the air and space around him as if cloud of hovering bees descended on him from above; the activity sending the fringed back of his all black costume into violent motion.


Kyle Abraham in “INDY”. Photo by Steven Schreiber.



Kyle Abraham in “INDY”. Photo by Steven Schreiber.

Set to an original score by Cleveland-native and Juilliard faculty member, Jerome Begin and in front of a target-like circular patterned backdrop, Abraham strutted and moved about the stage in various states of confidence.  From rounded shoulder, arm-swaying machismo to vogue-like prancing, the schizophrenic solo was a microcosm of Abraham’s signature movement style.  Toward the end of the solo, Abraham slowed the piece to a halt. As an audio recording of his college graduation ceremony played in the background, Abraham stripped off his costume and with it all of those states of confidence. The brief, vulnerable and revealing moment was a reminder of the fragile human beneath the stage façade. Donning his fringed shirt again, this time with the fringe in the front, Abraham returned to the virtuosic solo this time adding the silent screams and the pleading of someone whose confidence had been replaced by fear and doubt.

While “INDY” showed off Abraham’s major talents as a dancer, his new group work for the company, “Meditation: A Silent Prayer” (2018), revealed a choreographer at the top of his game in craft, theatricality, and having the pulse of the world he lives and works in.


A.I.M’s Keerati Jinakunwiphat and Jeremy “Jae” Neal in Kyle Abraham’s ““Meditation: A Silent Prayer”. Photo by Steven Schreiber.


A.I.M’s Jeremy “Jae” Neal and Marcella Lewis in Kyle Abraham’s ““Meditation: A Silent Prayer”. Photo by Steven Schreiber.

Danced to somber music by Craig Harris with haunting text and voiceover by Carrie Mae Weems, “Meditation: A Silent Prayer” was a heart-wrenching statement on black lives lost to police violence.

Performed in front of Titus Kaphar’s masterful yet eerie projected portraits of a trio of layered faces containing images of those being honored in the work, the blurred faces along with Weems’ stark roll call of their names, ages and familial titles including Cleveland’s own Tamir Rice, put into laser focus the injustice of those lives tragically cut short by police violence.

A gut check on our collective humanity, “Meditation: A Silent Prayer,” stands as one of Abraham’s finest works to date.


Jeremy “Jae” Neal, Marcella Lewis, Matthew Baker, Keerati Jinkakunwiphat and Claude Johnson in Kyle Abraham’s “Drive”. Photo by Ian Douglas.

Switching gears, the final work on the program, Abraham’s “Drive” (2017) featured all eight of A.I.M’s dancers (sans Abraham) in an up-tempo tour de force that Abraham describes as an abstract statement on unity in the face of societal ills.

Set to pulsating electronic hip hop music by Theo Parrish and Mobb Deep, the work with its city traffic lighting effects, was an invigorating non-stop showcase for the dancers who performed it brilliantly and an apt closer for A.I.M’s stellar program.

Next on DANCECleveland’s 63rd season is Ballet Hispanico, Saturday, November 10 and Sunday, November 11 at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre. For information and tickets visit dancecleveland.org.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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