Review: Kyle Abraham's Out There 'Requiem', with nods to Mozart

One of the best-known facts about Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor is that the composer died before he finished it. Over the centuries, the ...


One of the best-known facts about Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor is that the composer died before he finished it. Over the centuries, the finishes have multiplied. Kyle Abraham’s dance music “Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth” is not one of them.

You hear excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem throughout the work, which had its New York premiere at the Rose Theater on Thursday, when Abraham’s wonderful company AIM presented it as part of the Summer series. for the City at Lincoln Center. But innovation Jlin electronic music producer is in charge of the music, and she often remixes it beyond recognition.

It’s nowhere near as easy (or as fun) as putting a groove under Mozart, a la disco remake “A Fifth of Beethoven” style. At times, Jlin gives the Requiem a little grounding, a subterranean, theatrical buzzing bass. More frequently, she chops him up and causes him to stutter or go into reverse. For long sections, Mozart drifts away entirely, replaced by Jlin’s own fantastically polyrhythmic percussive imaginings.

Nor does Abraham’s work look like a traditional Requiem. Dan Scully’s lighting and stage design is chic and futuristic, an ever-changing light show of neon bars and circles of illumination – now red, now teal, now Easter purple. A high oculus on the back wall is bubbling with lava lamp silt.

The suits, by Giles Deacon, are silky white smocks, with frills and frills. Most of the 10 dancers wear skirts, some stiff like tutus, and they accessorize with poufs and protuberances somewhat reminiscent of Rei Kawakubo’s designs for Merce Cunningham’s “Scenario.” Their faces, which are hard to see in the dark, are made up with more masking color around the eyes.

Deacon also designed the costumes for “The Runaway,” Abraham’s 2018 hit for New York City Ballet. Like “The Runaway” – and unlike Abraham Recent, intimate, sitcom-like “An Untitled Love” — this “Requiem” is designed on the scale of a grand opera and seems to both struggle and revel in the crossover between ballet fashion and ballroom fashion.

In this sense, Abraham agrees well with Mozart and Jlin. The tensions in Abraham’s style – between fluidity and sharpness, arcs and glitches, line and break – are productively accentuated by the score. The work is traversed by beautiful skeins of movement, with enthrallingly virtuoso group, duet and solo sections earning accolades of appreciation. Alongside the usual wizards of the company, the new dancer Dymon Samara is a star.

But Jlin doesn’t help Abraham much with consistency and structure, never his strengths. From the start and throughout, the dancers slump, convulse, and quickly rise to their feet so frequently that this sequence of movements seems contagious, though the repetition gains no meaning or emotional resonance. The cast members catch and rock each other, dance for each other in the center of the circles, usually to support each other, but once in a stylized fight. At another point, they mock courteous attitudes and clap sarcastically, hinting at a positive attitude towards performance. (Here, Jlin samples an evil laugh.) But the attitude or point of view is generally pasty and meandering, even when it’s playful and disarming, with face-grazing dancers.

Is Abraham’s “Requiem” really a requiem? It’s more melancholic than mournful, and lacks the religious terror of Days of Wrath or any equivalent stakes. I heard Mozart’s tender “Lacrimosa” but, disappointingly and perhaps tellingly, not his menacing and driving “Confutatis”.

And if it’s not a requiem, what is? When a backstage dancer reaches out to a colleague on stage, you can read it as a sign to the other side. Or of the future? Towards the end, as Jlin clangs a bit of Mozart as if echoing through space, images of birth are projected onto the oculus like vision through a porthole. But this “Requiem” is not lucid enough to be science fiction. The spaceship is elegant, but there is no fire this time.

“Requiem: Fire in the Earth Air”

Until Saturday at the Rose Theatre; lincolncenter.org.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Review: Kyle Abraham's Out There 'Requiem', with nods to Mozart
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