Feedback
News

Alvin Ailey’s ‘Untitled America’ Tackles Mass Incarceration

World-renowned dance company Alvin Ailey is adding a powerful new piece to its winter season.

The final installment of choreographer Kyle Abraham’s trilogy, dubbed ‘Untitled America’, is a piece to a three-part series that exposes the impact the American prison system has on African-American families.

Through raw interviews, stirring music and Abraham’s signature avant-garde style dance movements the audience grapples with the connection felt when losing a loved one.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Night Gala
Choreographer Kyle Abraham attends the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Night Gala at New York City Center on November 28, 2012 in New York City. Jim Spellman / WireImage

The audio-recorded interviews of former inmates and those closest to them played as a backdrop to the abstract dancing on stage but the words exposed the truths of love, loss and pain that incarceration brings to so many families. Nearly 40 percent of the 2.3 million Americans currently incarcerated by the U.S. criminal justice system are black.

The piece features Laura Mvula’s “Father Father”, which Abraham says he was initially drawn to when the idea to create “Untitled” began. On top of musical scores by pianist Kris Bowers and electronic duo Raime, the audience can hear the audio of the inmates’ haunting words at one point crying, “I want to go home.”

Untitled America Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Choreography: Kyle Abraham Photo (C)2016 Paul Kolnik studio@paulkolnik.com Paul Kolnik / Paul Kolnik

Speaking for those who may not feel seen or heard was important to Abraham. He said he wanted the audience to “connect to the things we all experience in one way shape or form which is family and allow that to be a major part of the storytelling.”

“America’s history in relation to violence in the black family and black people across the country and incarceration and thereafter are connected to family and isolation in many ways,” he said.

As multiple dancers role-played guards and prisoners interacting in free flowing movements fighting and falling with force, the audience feels the helplessness inmates must feel being constantly constrained and reprimanded.

Untitled America
Untitled America: First Movement Choreography: Kyle Abraham Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Paul Kolnik / Paul Kolnik

Abraham referred to the dance style used in the performance as a “postmodern gumbo.”

“The gumbo aspect is really coming from my work being derivative of all the people that I have studied with and different techniques with my dance training and just to allowing them all to kind of simmer allowing movement to kind of come up or live in my body in different ways,” he stated while acknowledging dance legends such as Alvin Ailey, Kevin Wynn, Martha Graham, Marcus Graham and Bebe Miller.

In addition, the company concluded the night’s performances with Alvin Ailey’s 1960 signature piece “Revelations.”

“Untitled America” will be performed on Dec. 11, 15, 18, 24 and 30 as a part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s New York City Center Holiday Season through December 31.

Untitled America Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Choreography: Kyle Abraham Photo (C)2016 Paul Kolnik studio@paulkolnik.com Paul Kolnik / Paul Kolnik

Follow NBCBLK on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram