Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion at WhiteBird Dance

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion shared an exquisite evening at the Newmark Theatre in Portland Saturday night, as part of Whitebird’s Uncaged series.

            Opening with “The Quiet Dance”, a quintet set to Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time”, this work built organically around simple gestures, from the swivel of knees and elbows side to side, to the slow descent of a head, alone, or against another. Abraham played with connection here, relating dancers to self and other, finding moments of counterpoint, without being heavy-handed or glossy. His organic style delved into lovely canonical structures without feeling artificial or contrived, as he boldly carved the stage space into two separate fields of vision.

            “Absent Matter” featured video design by Naima Ramos Chapman, with music ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Kanye West that brought to the fore images of racial injustice and our society’s cultural brutalities. Abraham himself danced in this piece, slipping seemingly effortlessly between a classical dance vernacular and the raw-selvage edge where hiphop meets it. His performance was electric.

            Soloist Tamisha Guy pulsed with energy throughout the piece, lending tremendous gravitas despite her gamine frame. An arresting moment came when two dancers, Matthew Baker and Jeremy “Jae” Neal faced upstage, disrobed from the waist up, under a series of footage of Eric Garner being killed. Abraham takes stillness, no movement at all, as the greatest commentary.

            In “The Gettin’”, set to Robert Glasper’s interpretation of Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, Abraham plows even more deeply into the roots of racism, exploring the similarities between Apartheid South Africa, and the U.S.

Jazzy and lyrical, yet pointed and gripping, this piece sings from a deep, guttural place.

            Throughout the evening’s work, Abraham feathers the accelerator and the brakes, finding just the right momentum to share his vision. His artistic voice is clarion and confident, and his dancers exceptional.