Since 2006, when Kyle Abraham founded his dance company, A.I.M. (for Abraham in Motion), the 44-year-old has become one of the hottest choreographers around, known for collaborating with artists across a range of disciplines and perspectives. He’s also gained international acclaim for powerfully and persuasively reflecting Black culture and history through dance.
Embracing an eclectic array of influences, the company blends dance styles with both originality and a sense of organic integrity. That distinctive, wide-ranging movement aesthetic should be on full display in the company’s upcoming Institute of Contemporary Art Boston engagement April 15-17. The program features three works — “Our Indigo: If We Were a Love Song,” a series of solos, duets, and trios drawing from the tenderness and power of intimate songs by Nina Simone; “The Quiet Dance,” a quintet unfurling to the jazz stylings of Bill Evans; and the ensemble work “Studies on a Farewell,” set to music by Beethoven, Sebastian Bartmann, and Nico Muhly.
Abraham’s honors include a 2016 Doris Duke Award and several Princess Grace awards, and in 2013, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. He has created dances for companies ranging from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and National Ballet of Cuba to New York City Ballet and The Royal Ballet in London, where The Guardian called the world premiere of Abraham’s “The Weathering” for the company “dance that is effortlessly fresh.”
The Globe caught up by phone with Abraham in Los Angeles, where he holds the Claude and Alfred Mann Endowed Professorship in Dance at the University of Southern California.
Q. Though your choreography often tends to illuminate Black culture and identity, the work I’ve seen also seems to be about what it’s like to be human. Is evoking the universal through the particular important to you?
A. It’s more about creating work that makes space for empathy, so even if the work is not about or for you, that you feel welcome, safe, comfortable to ask questions, laugh, cry. But really, I’m making work from my own experience, and I try to get the experiences of my collaborators and their communities.
Q. During most of high school, you did sports and music. Do you credit starting formal dance training on the late side with your eclectic embrace of styles?
A. Yes. It was all fascinating to me — social dance, pop and rave culture, hip-hop. In the studio, I was just moving. Maybe there would be something from ballet, jazz class, modern, my rave world — I was just responding to music or emotion. I also had very supportive teachers. Having your own self-confidence and a sense of self-worth is important, but having supportive teachers and parents really gives you a leg up.
Q. How have the times we are in now impacted your work and vision? How do you uphold your goal of reflecting reality yet maintain hope?
A. Honestly, I think it’s about teaching. I love being a teacher and learning from my students. I think it’s my students who give me hope, but not much else, if I’m keeping it real. To learn and share with them, that’s where I get recharged and excited and hopeful. The world itself does not make me that way at all. [For] every small victory there are so many injustices happening at the same time.
Q. What keeps you going day to day and growing artistically?
A. [Laughs] That’s one of the questions I’m struggling with. But to be honest, fear of failure in some ways and the passion to always want to do better and be better, both as a human being and an artist. Teaching is one of those things for sure, making space to share together. … I really love watching dancers evolve and find themselves.
Q. Your thoughts on the relevance of dance during dark times?
A. It’s always been really hard for a lot of people to express their feelings. In the same way that dance can be dangerous and exciting in a vulnerable way, I think it’s also safe for some people. You can watch connections that are heightened in a way that goes beyond everyday human touch. And during lockdown, a lot of people were dancing in their rooms, which is how we all started, and there’s something beautiful to connect with there. … It’s why we do it. It’s not about the applause, [but] about what brings you joy.
A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham
At The Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston, April 15-17, Tickets $25-$35, www.icaboston.org
Karen Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.