To Be Real! - Kyle Abraham at OtB Apr 21, 2012
"My uzi weighs a ton." -Public Enemy
The choreography was exquisite. Movements bursting with angst, aggression, beautifully fluid motion from display of hetero-norm to homo-form to transcend all that shit and become unbound. The dancer-warriors told stories through spin-boom-spit-kick-pow-twirl-touch-don't touch-leap-collapse into…
Last night, the incredibly gifted choreographer & performers of Live! The Realest MC took me on a journey from audience member at OtB, back to the elementary playground where so many of my ideas about gender, love, and hate were formed. I remembered the wonder and amazement of first crushes, of being captivated by two beautiful brown boys, both of them a lot more rough and tumble than myself. I watched them dance my many moments of pre-adolescence, then post-sexual awakening, and recalled the fear of coming fully into knowing/being - myself. I remembered elementary, junior high, then high school, and how we danced. Before I knew any such thing about a plié, relevé, or dégagé - we danced. Our instructors were Michael and Janet Jackson, Prince, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Salt & Pepa, MC Hammer, music videos and VCR with slow motion. Our conservatory was mommy and daddy's basement, sidewalk on top of cardboard, the gymnasium, the backyard beneath the basketball hoop.
In the midst of watching LTRMC, I was transported back to when I first learned to distrust my own body and all it's elements, to betray what I knew to be true. My skin tone, my kinky hair, the lilt in my voice, the limp of my wrist, my crushes on the boys. I remembered tales of my father and "mistaken identity", "well a black man in the area who fit your description…" I remembered police brutality, and my mother screaming. I remembered when I first learned to fear the police and my place in the world. I remembered the first feeling that I might not graduate high school let alone live to see age 18. I remembered thoughts of suicide, and my everyday fear of getting beat up for being a sissy.
"Got to be real." -Cheryl Lynn
Black boys learn to choreograph movement early in life. Learn to smile, learn to "walk, don't run", lest they think you've stolen something, lest they think you're going to attack. (because of course we couldn't be running late for the bus) We learn to be silent, learn to be loud, obedient, defiant - a menace to society/detriment to ourselves. We know when to turn on and off, how to present, serve the dog and pony show. We learn to play dozens, learn to read yo ass, whoop that ass, retreat, play possum, we learn to keep it on the down low, and to keep it real.
Kyle Abraham's brilliantly danced piece of art through movement displayed painfully and gorgeously the complexity of growing up a black man/black woman/gay, straight, trans, or other in America. Track suits and wife beaters adorned with sequins, muted femininty of female dancers, schizophrenic flip-switch on a dime from hard to soft in both body and beats, men holding hands lovingly then breaking apart in disgust, misogyny and homophobia hurled like stones and then internalized, the melding of modern, ballet, vogue, hip-hop, industrial, and spoken word. All these elements served to illustrate the shape-shifting dances we do within these rigid, hands around our throats, soul-crushing constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual norms.
Any swag you display may be used against you in the court of the street. Any fag you display may be used against you in the court of the street. Remove the swish from your walk, the lisp from your talk. Take the bass from a song and swallow it whole, drop voice 2 octaves lower than is natural. Be anything but real. Naw, fuck that… Be flamboyant. Be bold. Be Kanye talkin shit. Be Nicki Minaj talkin shit. Be Jonté and Miss J. Be Gangster. Be Cunt. Be Collegiate, Conservatory, Club, and Street. Be the rose that grew from concrete. Be Pinocchio and know that you are no one's puppet and are as real as they come.
Kyle Abraham said last night, "To be expansive I had to get outta my room." Thank you brother Kyle, for leaving the safety of that room and transcending the confines of every box they tried to keep you in. With Live! The Realest MC, you've rewritten the code, and pushed the boundaries of possibility.
-okanomodé aka SoulChilde :: writer :: composer :: performance artist