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Choreographer Kyle Abraham is a rising star in the dance world, integrating elements from his experiences as a black gay male growing up in Pittsburgh into his highly personal work. He knew he was meant to be a dancer after seeing the Joffrey ballet perform songs by Prince and music has had a huge impact on him ever since, from newcomer James Blake to Bill Evans. His makes his California debut at REDCAT with “The Radio Show” this weekend.
For More: http://www.redcat.org/event/kyle-abraham
1 - Batdance - Prince
2 - Peace Piece - Bill Evans
3 - The Wilhelm Scream - James Blake
4 - U. Black Maybe - Common featuring Bilal
5 - Bring Me Down - Kanye West & Brandy
Anthony Valdez: Hi I'm Anthony Valadez and I'm here with professional dancer and choreographer Kyle Abraham. Today, we are going to play excerpts of songs that he has selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ project. Kyle, how are you man?
Kyle Abraham: Pretty good man how are you feeling?
AV: I'm feeling great, let's talk about music. So your first record “Batdance” by Prince, tell us about this one.
KA: It's hard for me with Prince, because he has such a huge catalog and I've grown up with his music through my older sister my entire life. And the thing with Batdance, I was thinking about this album, the Batman Soundtrack and thinking there are very few soundtracks done by one pop music artist that really you can tell that they were inspired by the film and/or the subject matter. Each song you can hear where he is coming from in relation to the Batman character or the Joker character in the movie and/or the comic books.
KA: The crazy thing is, I know exactly what day I saw this movie. It was my sister's birthday and in Pittsburg - I don't know if they did this all around the world - but you could buy a tee shirt and the tee shirt was your admission ticket into the movie. So, I remember sitting there with my Batman tee shirt on June 15, my sister's birthday watching this movie.
AV: When you were a kid, did you always know that you wanted to be a dancer growing up?
KA: Yeah, I think the dance thing for me, it started because my mother and my father put me and my sister in visual art classes and all this stuff. And all these things I was able to do in my room and I was making up dances in my room, not really knowing the word for it was at the time. It wasn't until my friends actually took me to see the Joffrey Ballet doing a full length evening of dances to Prince that I saw dance for the first time on stage. And if there wasn't that opportunity I never would have been interested in wanting a career in dance.
AV: That was Batdance by Prince as selected by Kyle Abraham as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. So, what's your next record for us?
KA: Next, we have Peace Piece by Bill Evans.
Bill Evans brings an amazing tonal quality to everything he's playing. You get the emotion, you hear the emotion in the music. And Peace Piece is definitely one of the tracks, it's actually one of my favorite songs of all time.
It just kind of goes down like a nice dose of Robitussin when you have a cold or something.
I probably just cried the first time I heard the track. I think that happens a lot of times when I'm listening to Bill Evans. It just sits in my system really well and I didn't start dancing to his music or him playing anything until more recently, the last few years. Some thing things that have been going on in my personal life have had me tapping into the emotion that he brings in his music.
AV: That was Bill Evans with Peace Peace selected by Kyle Abraham part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. What's next for us?
KA: The next track I've got is the Wilhelm Scream by James Blake. There is so much emotion in the track, there is so much texture. He's such a skilled artist. It really, it just sits in there and it makes me want to move.
AV: Is this a headphone song for you?
KA: You know, New York is such a weird place in a sense. Unless you have the luxury of living by yourself, you're always surrounded by people. And having your headphones, it's one of those times you can kind of shut the world out if you can. So for me, when listening to James Blake and a lot of these other selections, I just kind of really feel I'm in my own world and/ or reflecting on whatever has just gone on in the day or what may be coming up for me for the rest of the day.
AV: That was the Wilhelm Scream by James Blake as selected by Kyle Abraham as part of KCRW's Guest DJ project. So, what's your next record for us?
KA: Next we have “U, Black Maybe”, Common featuring Bilal.
AV: And what does this song say to you?
Kayne produced the track for Common and Bilal. And you know Kayne, he does his homework. The lyrical content in this song, you can tell that they were finding the right sample. Part of me thinks that maybe they heard the Syreeta Wright track and Syreeta, that voice is ridiculously amazing. And I think there is something about the history that you get from the time that that song was written that is kind of coming back to life in Common and Bilal's updated version of the song in a sense, that kind of retelling of a story which I really, really appreciate.
AV: The song, lyrically, Common talks about a lot of social issues and things that affect African Americans. What does this say to you? Because Common gets very deep into it and when you listen to this song, do you feel a connection to what he's saying?
KA: Yeah I do, I think that is part of my journey as an artist. I think a lot of the work I make is inspired by my life and my life experiences. Growing up as a black gay man, there are so many different labels and connotations that go along with those labels that I think definitely relate to that song's message in a sense. I think, in every instance, I'm still trying to either prove myself or prove that I'm not an ideal of one of those labels in a sense. I think there's something about those lyrics that really work with the trajectory of an artist that I'm trying to take on.
AV: That was “U, Black Maybe” by Common featuring Bilal selected by Kyle Abraham part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Alright so what is your last record for us Kyle?
KA: Sure, the last record I brought is “Bring Me Down”, Brandy featuring Kanye West.
You know it's one of those songs that anytime I just kind of feel like society is bring me down or just the system in some way -- whether it be getting denied something -- it's a song I just play and it just helps me get motivated. If I'm having a bad rehearsal day, whatever is going on in my life, I just play that song. I just get uplifted and ready to work. I just tell myself I can do this.
AV: That was Brandy featuring Kanye West with “Bring me Down”. So Kyle thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
KA: Yeah thanks so much, thanks for having me.
AV: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the Podcast through Itunes.