Great world-premiere program last night by this company led by Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham. Live! The Realest MC is the latest by the dancer and choreographer, who's now based in New York City and getting plaudits from the national dance press, but who maintains close ties with his hometown, and especially the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.
In the hour-long Live!, which repeats tonight (Sat., Nov. 19), the seven dancers embody Abraham's vision of "realness" as played out in a context of black urban gay life, informed by Abraham's own experience growing up. A key theme was an interrogation of the performance of masculinity as represented in hip-hop culture. In one sequence, Abraham plays an MC who alternately blusters and breaks down in tears.
As always, Abraham's choreography was wonderfully supple, by turns athletic, precisely spasmodic and astringently artful. There's even a strong dose of humor injected by the inclusion of hip-hop dance instruction video and audio. The group of dancers might be the strongest Abraham has brought with him in his frequent Pittsburgh shows over the years.
The production itself was striking as well. It featured an evocative, heavily electronic soundtrack; potent lighting design, by Dan Scully; video projections by former Pittsburgher Carrie Schneider; and an innovative backdrop consisting of these sort of giant, narrow, vertically hung louvers (like window-blinds hung sideways) that served as a projection surface but intermittently rotated, producing an interesting visual effect.
The second and final Pittsburgh performance of Live! The Realest MC is at 8 p.m. tonight. www.kelly-strayhorn.org.