Kyle Abraham Performance and Q&A with Joshua Chambers Letson

November 8, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

When: Wednesday, November 8th, 2023

Time: 6:00pm

Where: Staenberg Performance Lab, Center for Creative Arts (COCA), 6880 Washington Ave.

Renowned choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham will perform part of a new solo work in progress. Following the performance he will be joined by performance studies scholar Joshua Chambers-Letson for a conversation exploring Abraham’s relationship to place, process, Black dance, Black music, and his lived Black experience, as well themes of queer love and loss. Abraham is featured in the exhibition Adam Pendleton: To Divide By. He is the subject of Pendleton’s film portrait What Is Your Name? Kyle Abraham, A Portrait (2018–19), one in an ongoing series of portraits that take the form of conversations between Pendleton and prominent cultural figures. Through montage and repetition, Pendleton frames Abraham as a site of plurality.

Free and open to the public; space is limited. 

About the speakers

Joshua Chambers-Letson is professor of performance studies and Asian American studies at Northwestern University, researching and teaching course in performance theory and contemporary art criticism, Asian American cultural production, legal and political theory, and queer of color critique. At work on a book about queer love and loss, art, and grief, JCL’s most recent monograph, After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (NYU Press, 2018) studies contemporary art and performance by queers and women of color who mobilize aesthetics to survive, thrive, and mourn within the annihilating conditions produced by the overlapping forces of racial capitalism, Euro-US colonialism, white supremacy, and cis-heteropatriarchy. Focusing on the lives and work of Nina Simone, Félix González-Torres, Danh Võ, Eiko Otake, and Tseng Kwong Chi, After the Party was the 2019 winner of both the Association of Theatre in Higher Education’s Outstanding Book Award for best book in theatre and performance studies and the Eroll Hill Award for best book in black theatre and performance studies from the American Society for Theatre Research. JCL’s first monograph, A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (NYU Press, 2014) argues that law influences racial formation by compelling Asian Americans to embody and perform recognizable racial identities in both popular aesthetic forms (from theatre and opera to rock music), before attending to the way Asian American artists and activists have used performance, theatre, and art to contest and disrupt the forces and effects of racialization. A Race So Different won the 2014 Outstanding Book Award from ATHE. With Tavia Nyong’o, Chambers-Letson is the co-editor of José Esteban Muñoz’s posthumous The Sense of Brown (Duke University Press, 2020) and with Christine Mok he is co-editor of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s China Triology: Three Parables of Global Capital (Metheun Drama, 2022). JCL serves as a performance editor for ASAP, on the editorial board of women & performance, as a series co-editor for the Sexual Cultures series at NYU Press (with Nyong’o and Ann Pellegrini), and is the 2022–23 Thinker-In-Residence with the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.

Chambers-Letson earned a PhD in performance studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2009, held a postdoctoral fellowship at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Humanities, and was most recently a Presidential Fellow at Yale University for the 2021–22 academic year.


Princess Grace Statue Award recipient (2018), Doris Duke Award recipient (2016), and MacArthur Fellow (2013) Kyle Abraham began his dance training at the Civic Light Opera Academy and the Creative and Performing Arts High School in Pittsburgh. After graduating from Schenley High School, Abraham continued his dance studies in New York, earning a BFA from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Abraham later received an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Washington Jefferson College. Abraham is currently the Claude and Alfred Mann Endowed Professor in Dance at The University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance (2021–present). Prior to USC, Abraham served as a visiting professor in residence at the University of California, Los Angeles’s World Arts Cultures in Dance program (2016–21). Abraham serves on the advisory board for Dance Magazine and in 2020 was selected to be their first-ever guest editor. Abraham also sits on the artistic advisory board for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the inaugural Black Genius Brain Trust, and the inaugural cohort of the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab, a partnership between the Prada Group, Theaster Gates Studio, Dorchester Industries, and Rebuild Foundation. In addition, Abraham was named a Kennedy Center Next 50 Leader (2021), a list of leaders who exemplify the Center’s mission to help shape culture and society through the arts. Abraham was named to the inaugural 100 ArtDesk magazine (2022) for “pushing new frontiers in creative work” and was one of Native Son’s 101 Class of 2022 honoring “Black gay men who have had an impact this year.” He was a recipient of a 2022 Dance Magazine Award, one of the field’s highest honors, and was called a “voice of a generation” by the magazine.

His company, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham, is widely considered “one of the most consistently excellent troupes working today” (The New York Times). Led by Abraham’s innovative vision, the work of A.I.M is galvanized by Black culture and history and grounded in a conglomeration of unique perspectives; described as a “post-modern gumbo” of movement exploration. In addition to performing and developing new works for his company, Abraham has been commissioned by a wide variety of dance companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, National Ballet of Cuba, New York City Ballet, and the Royal Ballet. Abraham has also choreographed for many of the leading dancers of our time, including Calvin Royal III, Misty Copeland, and Wendy Whelan. Off the stage, Abraham choreographed the music video for Sufjan Stevens’s Sugar (2020), and the feature-length film The Book of Henry (2016) for acclaimed director Colin Trevorrow. Abraham’s choreography has been presented at such notable venues and festivals as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Danspace Project, Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center, and Lincoln Center in New York; Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Los Angeles Music Center in California; Dance Center at Columbia College Chicago in Illinois; On The Boards and Seattle Theatre Group in Washington; and The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Internationally Abraham’s works have toured to Théâtre Paul Eluard, Maison de la Danse, Théâtre de la Ville, and L’Onde in France; Tanz Im August and Kampnagel Festival in Germany; Project Arts Centre in Ireland; The Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum in Japan; and The Royal Opera House and Sadler’s Wells in the United Kingdom, among others.

This event is co-sponsored by Washington University in St. Louis’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity; the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences; and the Center for Creative Arts. Part of the Sam Fox School Public Lecture Series.