Just a week before he landed his call as director of the Edinburgh International Festival, Fergus Linehan presented dance-lovers among his audience with a formidable work of contemporary African-American choreography. An Untitled Love by Kyle Abraham and his New York company AIM is a delicious mix of hip hop, contemporary dance and ballet styles (among others).
The stated mission of Abraham’s company is to “create a body of dance-based work that is galvanized by black culture and history.” As this lovely show proves, that includes the experience of personal relationships, as well as the tense and contested public realm. Half house party, half contemporary ballet show, show decor (designed by Dan Scully) entertainers, courtyard side, the essentials of a modern living room, including a large and comfortable sofa. Relaxed, at times comedic and conversational, we see the mating game played out with a wit and humor reminiscent of the work of the great UK-based choreographer Lloyd Newson and his company DV8 Physical Theatre.
An Untitled Love is performed to a truly glorious and wonderfully cohesive soundtrack by neo-soul pioneer D’Angelo and his longtime collaborators The Vanguard. Combining RnB, soul, funk, jazz and Latin styles, the score is suited to choreography that oscillates between high-energy hip hop moves, dancing with beautiful, balletic precision, and movement so laid back as it is. almost hypnotic.
At one point, a couple examining each other engage in a graceful pas de deux worthy of the most classic of ballets. In another hilarious moment, we watch the party in slow motion. A young woman, who’s had dinner, tries to play it cool, but only succeeds in unwittingly entertaining her friends by performing an inebriated backflip that lands her behind the couch.
Such humor runs through a show that brings out both the comedic and charming elements of group behavior. The party choreography encompasses a wide range of human expressions, from free-form individualism to simultaneous movement that reflects the familiarity of friendship. The latter is exemplified by a beautiful scene in which four female friends sit on the ubiquitous sofa and move together in perfect synchronicity. From solos and duets showcasing talent to mellow group scenes, An Untitled Love is an accomplished and confident reflection on the universal human experience within an African-American cultural context.
Until tonight. The festival continues until August 29. Tickets : eif.co.uk