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A.I.M: Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth

Choreography Kyle Abraham, music Mozart and Jlin
A.I.M by Kyle Abraham
Sadler’s Wells

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A.I.M: Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth Credit: Peter Hönnemann
Claude 'CJ' Johnson and Dorchell Haqq in A.I.M: Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth Credit: Peter Hönnemann
A.I.M: Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth Credit: Peter Hönnemann
Donovan Reed in A.I.M: Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth Credit: Peter Hönnemann
Donovan Reed in A.I.M: Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth Credit: Peter Hönnemann

A.I.M. stands for Abraham In Motion and do he and his ten dancers live up to that ceaseless motion in Requiem: Fire in the Air of the Earth as they dance in cohort, in groups, in fleeting duets and solos, quickly fleeing and returning to the stage. Sixty-two flat out minutes of uninterrupted Cunningham-esque disjointed discombobulating individuality.

Eccentrically and colourfully costumed by Giles Deacon in what seems like Baroque inspired outfits—it is Mozart they are sampling after all. With individualistic touches, ruffs for some, a tutu for one, a bustle for another, singular detachable puff sleeves, skirts for all. All under Dan Scully’s intriguing conceptual scenic and dark lighting design. The dancers’ shenanigans, their arms wafting like tendrils, have a hard hill to climb to compete with Scully. I almost forget to watch them.

I’m fascinated, nay mesmerised, by that neon-lit constructivist central circular sun, and what is revealed inside its orb. Lava lamp images flow, colours change, is it a portal into another hopeful world, or our vale of tears? Babies are born, weddings are glimpsed, soil is turned, a body floats in the sea, and viscera flows in beautiful colours. Is the final central image a fingerprint? The rituals—and it does feel at times like a danced circular tribal trance rite—of life and death, mourning and rebirth, ecstasy and despair. People shudder, twitch, fall, battle and get up again. In the midst of life we are in death…

Several hands tried to complete Mozart’s Requiem after his death. It was ‘finished’ by Süssmayer, now electronic artist Jlin “has transformed Mozart’s score into an electronic opus that memorializes ritual and rebirth.” Mozart’s music—little of it remains—is commandeered by Jlin for her multiple electronic layers, strong beats and percussion. Known for her Chicago Footwork, a type of Hip Hop, the music is unrelenting, a driving pulse one can’t escape. When silence falls it is profound. And when bits of Mozart leak out it is heavenly.

The dancers remind me of Pierrots, Hofesh Shechter’s Clowns, on and on they go… electronica electrifying their pumping energy… Don’t we need some of that… Life is banal, trite, clichéd, but what can you do but celebrate it… Logan Hernandez, an outstandingly supple dancer, has a superb long solo, but I can’t always put a name to the performers, so here they all are in addition to Hernandez: Tamisha A Guy, Keerati Jinakunwiphat, Claude “CJ” Johnson, Catherine Kirk, Jae Neal, Donovan Reed, Martell Ruffin, Dymon Samara and Gianna Theodore.

Multi-garlanded, multi-commissioned Abraham is finally getting a profile here: he has already had two works commissioned by the Royal Ballet, Optional Family and The Weathering. Neither anything like Requiem… A.I.M. mission statement is “to create a body of dance-based work that is galvanized by Black culture and history… with artists across a wide range of disciplines… a sensual and provocative vocabulary with a strong emphasis on music, text, video and visual art”… drawing “inspiration from a multitude of sources and movement styles.” This the unpredictable Abraham has accomplished with bells on.

It’s good to see the company in a smaller space, more intimate, though the theatre is far from full, which rather dampens the atmosphere. The company is touring USA and Europe, which will include the Venice Biennale and Edinburgh Festival this summer. It’ll be just the ticket there.

Reviewer: Vera Liber