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Kyle Abraham / Layard Thompson at DTW

by Lori Ortiz
December 3, 2008
Dance Theatre Workshop
219 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-924-0077
"Brick", "The Dripping Kind", "Cup…puC……K……Ohhhh, Beauty, full,vessel:"
Layard Thompson begins his performance hesitantly during the intermission of this December 3, 2008 shared Dance Theater Workshop program. Passers-by encounter the dancer/choreographer wiping lipstick and eye makeup off his face. He looks up peevishly from the floor near the house doors, recalling a drugged club kid. His movement and speech is palsied and his costume is coffee stained. Yet he's pearly and glamorous. There is Layard Thompson and his "Cup…puC……K……Ohhhh, Beauty, full, vessel:."

Cornered at the top of the stairs, he wears an incredible dress made of machine-sewn coffee cups. Greek-style ones make the bodice, and the fancier, gold and red gourmet cups fill the bottom rungs or ruffles of his skirt. Underneath, his legs are bound in bubble wrap, making it easier for him to barrel down the stairs, lift himself up by his muscular arms to grab the rails, and propel himself stagebound.

In an onstage striptease he finally breaks through plastic shrinkwrapping to reveal his birthday suit. It doesn't get prettier. Liquid trickles between his legs. "Ohhhh," he says. Ohhhh, we are thinking. The mood is mutual chagrin. And empathy.

But Thompson is a "hothouse flower." The dancer subverts articles of underwear, creating a new outfit, a codpiece and halter-top, of simple fruit-of-the-loom. Mounting an overturned trash barrel with a brown paper bag on his head, he gyrates to Britney Spears's "Break the Ice." Near the end, he morphs under a segmented blanket of cups and emerges wearing it. Thompson Vogues in the tremendously long-trained cloak made of many hundreds of cups, and an oversized headdress of plastic, cold drink cups.

The Bessie Award winning Thompson is known for his impressive interpretations of postmodern pioneer Deborah Hay's choreography. He also performs with the Pixie Harlots, a drag cabaret troupe. In "Cup…" he comes out with his own transgender, trans-genre aesthetic. Finally he offers a cup of vegan hot chocolate mixed with aromatic, medicinal herbs, asking us to take a sip. His need for love, his vegan potion, his penchant for ecofashion, his cult of body, his magnetic voice, say something necessary and radical.

First on the program is Kyle Abraham with his equally radical "Brick." Abraham performed a spiritual work-in-progress at DTW Studio several years back. "Brick" is a new look at black male identity, as in Reggie Wilson's "Big Brick: A Man's Piece," and Kehinde Wiley's paintings. The premiere "Brick" has Abraham's strong spiritual foundation. His movement shows roots in his work with Bill T. Jones and rave dancing. He cites these influences among others in Eva Yaa Asantewaa's recent podcast.

In a hoody with a large gold logo on the back, Abraham plasters himself up against the wall, creating three poses on a large white paper that extends across on the back wall. Evan Copeland draws his outline, a progressively slumped or falling silhouette. The three stages evoke a worsening infection, cancer, or other potentially fatal situation.

The outlines fill with solid-white erasures that roughly displace a projected village scene. Meanwhile Abraham continues his dance on large white-plastic covered squares in a checkerboard pattern. He avoids the black squares like the plague. His brown skin is blackened. He is bare-chested, having removed his hoody and Afro wig. In wide black pants with a patent leather corset/belt, he dances to a mix of rap and trance music. Dan Scully's lighting, too, keeps him from disappearing.

The quiet unfolding of this powerful twelve-minute eye-opener then recreates a nightmarish journey of lynching, death, and resurrection. "Brick" should be seen and awarded!

A second Abraham.in.Motion dance, "The Dripping Kind," develops over twenty-five minutes, for two males and six women. Nicole Mannerino leads with a single "Go." The instruction is oft-repeated throughout as the dancers hurl themselves into couplings that suggest lovemaking or fighting. "Go" sets off unison escapades— they roll, arch up and flip over, and roll again. At the start they stand in the slumped position, repeat this motif, and end that way too.

Mannerino pushes up from the floor while a succession of dancers slide underneath, as if auditioning for the part of her lover. There is increasing chemistry and Meghan Merrill forms the closest and most lasting bond. Sumaya Jackson, in solo, makes frustrated attempts to join in, spinning in and out from the sidelines. Her moves are abrupt, unpredictable and interestingly sum up Abraham's aesthetic for this. Evan Copeland stands, bent back in a limbo. All the dancers further the cause.

The boot camp progresses to music by Arvo Part, T. Brinkmann, and G. Montero. The beat gets faster and we are drawn into the rhythmic machine. Mannerino continues her call, even as the others lie prone.

Like an athletic exercise, it's unpolished. Despite the locker-room informality, we're about as wound up as the dancers, and finally their rigor releases us. "The Dripping Kind" is the talented choreographer working it out.
Evan Copeland (l) and Kyle Abraham in 'Brick'

Evan Copeland (l) and Kyle Abraham in "Brick"

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Nicole Mannerino and Meghan Merrill in 'The Dripping Kind'

Nicole Mannerino and Meghan Merrill in "The Dripping Kind"

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu


Layard Thompson

Layard Thompson

Photo © & courtesy of Yi-Chun Wu

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