Dance-choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham will join the faculty of the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture this fall.
Called “the best and brightest creative talent to emerge in New York City in the age of Obama” (OUT Magazine), Abraham creates choreography that draws upon social politics and personal history to create original work. Abraham was born into hip-hop culture in the late 1970s and grounded in an artistic upbringing in classical cello, piano and the visual arts. He cited the Joffrey Ballet’s “Billboards,” a ballet set to a soundtrack by Prince, as the inspiration for taking his first formal dance class at the Civic Light Opera Academy in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
Abraham has toured and performed at some of the most important venues and festivals in the world and has been recognized for his work with prestigious accolades that include a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award, a 2016 Princess Grace Foundation Special Project Award, the 2015 City Center Choreographer in Residence, a 2010 Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance in Dance and a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship. He was named New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award recipient and USA Ford Fellow in 2012, the same year the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premiered his work, “Another Night,” at New York’s City Center to rave reviews.
“I could not be more thrilled to welcome Kyle to our school,” said David Roussève, interim dean and professor of choreography at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. “He is an exceptional educator who also creates provocative and challenging yet gloriously beautiful work. His impeccable formal capabilities and his deeply held commitment to community, social engagement and artistic experimentation is beyond compare and make him an exceptional match for our school and for the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. Kyle is at the absolute pinnacle in the field and promises to be a major force in the art world for decades to come. I look forward to the creativity and excellence he will bring to our campus.”
In addition to performing and developing new works for his company, Abraham.In.Motion (AIM), he has been commissioned by many other notable companies, including the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Abraham recently finished touring “The Serpent and The Smoke,” a new pas de deux for himself and acclaimed Bessie Award-winning and former New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Wendy Whelan as part of her project “Restless Creature,” and choreographed for the upcoming feature-length film, “The Book of Henry” with acclaimed director Colin Trevorrow. Abraham is currently developing “Dearest Home,” an immersive interactive work for A.I.M that is set to premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in May 2017, and “Untitled America,” a three-part commissioned work for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater that is set to premiere in December 2016.
This fall, Abraham will make his debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with “Pavement,” a work inspired by the 1991 hip-hop drama “Boyz n the Hood” and his upbringing in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. Abraham and his company will also present “Pavement” at the Laguna Dance Festival in Laguna Beach, California on September 22 and 23.
Abraham said he is eager to join the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance because of its unique blend of theory and practice. “This program,” he said, “can bring a dancer who is trained solely in Cambodian dance together with someone who has spent the better part of their professional career studying release-based dance movement. Students can learn from each other and create a more interesting collaboration because of their different backgrounds. You do not get that diversity in a conservatory.”
Lionel Popkin, chair of the department, described Abraham as “one of the leading voices of his generation. His commitment to the student as a total artist, developing movers and thinkers who engage their world as responsible citizens with a purpose matches the goals of our program.”
Abraham received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from SUNY Purchase and a master’s in fine arts from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. In 2014, he received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Washington Jefferson College.
This story was adapted from the original published by the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.