“Radio Show” Tunes In
KYLE ABRAHAM’s evening-length work, The Radio Show, is an intimate examination of loss of both a personal and cultural kind. One on hand, the dance draws from Abraham’s own father’s loss of speech and memory due to Alzheimer’s.
On the other hand, it is inspired by the loss of a Pittsburgh urban radio station: the kind that plays everybody’s favorite songand whose announcers keep you company and make you laugh when you are down—the kind that is the soundtrack to an entire generation.
The Radio Show replaces this idea of loss with another form of communication: exquisite physical expression.
The 7 members which make up the company are all intriguing to watch, with both virtuosic dancing and artistic abilities. They beautifully interpret the message of the work. The movement is a seamless blend of modern and hip-hop intermixed with gesture and theatrical elements.
The dance develops in a stop-and-start rhythm at the beginning with a solo from Abraham as he moves in a broad and joyful sequence to sounds of an R&B tune which is jolted by stillness, with only a tremor in his hand and a look of confused fear. The body again remembers what to do, but the contrast between strength and weakness, vigor and infirmity, control and loss of control continues throughout the piece.
As the ensemble joins him, the dancing becomes richer and unison sections show the dancers in fluid motion with bodies reaching far beyond their limits as they travel dynamically through space in all directions. The sound score includes not only popular selections but speech from the announcers and listeners who call in. There is also a fair share of static which is at times more effective than others. The empty frequency may represent the emptiness as the mind loses its abilities anchored in memory.
Costumes by Sarah Cubbage include tailored pants and tops whose back are cut out. The lighting design is effective, giving dimension to the stage space, however back-strip light, which proved blinding to the audience, is a distraction.
The female dancers are especially strong and add their own characterizations to the story of a generation. There are moments of humor (gum chewing, hair spraying, sassiness) and tenderness (lovers, caregivers, family) interspersed throughout which give shape and texture to the narrative. By the end, however, the material becomes repetitive, causing the mind to wander and putting the subject matter at risk of becoming cliché. Fortunately, as Abraham returns in the final sequence to his opening material, we are again connected to his poignant story.
photo credits: 2012 Spoleto Festival photos by Steven Schreiber