Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review: The Radio Show

In Kyle Abraham's dance "The Radio Show" for his company, Abraham.In.Motion, he addresses the loss of urban radio stations, and how they were an integral part of the African-American community. Friday night's performance at the Annenberg Center, part of Live Arts/Fringe, was Abraham's Philadelphia debut.

Review: The Radio Show

By Ellen Dunkel

The media have taken a hit in the past decade or so. Newspapers have closed, partly because so many people generally get their information online. CDs and books have suffered in the face of downloads. And TV and radio are more concerned than ever about ratings, advertisers, and shows that will appeal to the widest audience.

In Kyle Abraham’s dance The Radio Show for his company, Abraham.In.Motion, he addresses the loss of urban radio stations, and how they were an integral part of the African-American community. Friday night’s performance at the Annenberg Center, part of Live Arts/Fringe, was Abraham’s Philadelphia debut.

Abraham drew the audience in before the show even began, with a selection of songs by Al Green, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Dionne Warwick, and many others. Meanwhile, he walked through the audience, finding people to sit with for a brief chat.

The 75-minute dance is a mix of relationships, hair care, and other life scenes, as well as plotless dances. This is all set to the soundtrack of Abraham’s life, from Aretha Franklin to Britney Spears.

Some sections are performed static or the changing of the song or station station. Sometimes they're performed in silence, as the station has gone off the air. The movement is jazzy, sometimes borrowing steps from ballet, and consistently high quality.

In one amusing section, the action is stopped for a call-in radio show featuring a DJ, a caller offstage, and selected audience members.

The only odd bit was what was described as an intermission in the program, but turned out to be a pause. Several people took it as a cue to step out, only to miss part of the second half.

$25-$30. Zellerbach Theater, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Tonight 8 p.m.,

About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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