Kyle Abraham has made a long-awaited return to the stage at the Reynolds Industrial Theater on the campus of Duke University.

A.I.M (Abraham in Motion), his company, is one of the most arresting and important companies performing today. Abraham leads the company, curating important, contemplative projects that are politically charged yet never feel condescending or overbearing.

The pre-show music, a mixture of contemporary hip-hop and club electric dance music, set the tone for the evening with its modern feel. Even the audience resembled an extremely diverse crowd of people across all ages, demographics, and experiences. The first piece on the program, entitled “state,” saw silhouettes of three African American female dancers pulsating to Reggie Wilkins’ electric soundscape. The movements of the dancers, first beginning with small isolations of body parts before evolving into unified silhouettes, explored the ways that women and their bodies are restricted. Each dancer moved with confidence yet when left apart from the other two retracted back into small, subtle movements, demonstrating the inner life of the body and the ways we censor ourselves in order to conform. Guest choreographer Andrea Miller expertly opens the piece up for that interpretation.

Abraham himself then made his return to the stage to perform the solo “INDY.” Again, in this dance about the relationship of body with identity, Abraham used this piece to explore his own personal (and thereby the universal) journey of self-love and acceptance. Abraham’s journey as a queer artist began with him entering the stage dressed in a woman’s top, feverently brushing off something from his skin – something he wanted out of him or off of him. The dance quickly changed to a runway-like movement where he switched between a fast, sassy model strut and a slower street walk, the latter an attempt to fit in, the former who he really is. Neither came together effectively: he himself did not know how he walked quite yet because he did not feel comfortable in his own skin (a la the opening image). What followed was a poignant meditation on loving the skin you live in. Abraham painted powerful imagery using his body to convey deeply complex emotions. The exhilarating result was a performance for the ages, a solo effort that was personal and profound in every way. *

A.I.M by Kyle Abraham continues through Thursday evening, July 18.

* We profoundly regret that due to health reasons the reviewer was unable to stay for the second half of the program, which was to have included: Show Pony, “an energetic work choreographed by Kyle Abraham for Tamisha Guy and Marcella Lewis (Princess Grace Award Recipients 2016 and 2018, respectively),” and “Meditation: A Silent Prayer, an ensemble work featuring voice-over recording by Carrie Mae Weems and visual artwork by Titus Kaphar, and Drive, a high energy, propulsive work set to thumping club beats.”

Edited/corrected 8/1/19.