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    Rachelle Rafailedes, Elyse Morris and Chalvar Montiero in Kyle Abraham: Heartbreaks and Homies
    Photo by Steven Schreiber
    Rachelle Rafailedes, Elyse Morris and Chalvar Montiero

    Valentine's Day Explained

    Kyle Abraham and Friends in "Heartbreaks and Homies" at Joe's Pub


    Heartbreak spawns humor and humility, and all three inspired a great evening of dance at Joe's Pub, titled "Heartbreaks and Homies," produced by DanceNOW and choreographed by Kyle Abraham, with a little help from friends Alex Escalante, Faye Driscoll and David Dorfman.

    Choreography by: Kyle Abraham, David Dorfman, Faye Driscoll, Alex Escalante.
    Dancers: Kyle Abraham, Chalvar Montiero, Elyse Morris, Christopher Nolan, Rachelle Rafailedes, Hsiao-Jou Tang
    Raja Feather Kelly and Jenna Riegel
    Faye Driscoll and Jesse Zaritt
    Alex Escalante
    Sound design by: Brandon Wolcott (Faye Driscoll).
    Joe's Pub
    February 11 and 12, 2011

    Valentine's Day seems built for Kyle Abraham, giving him the perfect reason to dig out gem-songs of love and loss and set dances to them. His opening solo sets the tones for the evening, running through three songs and more emotions, ranging from timid searching to aggressive display. He flashes from one emotional place to the next in shifts quick enough to evoke humor and awe.

    The slinky jazz My Funny Valentine gives Chalvar Montiero and Christopher Nolan just enough room to move, lips locked, in scarlet windbreakers and lava lamp red lighting. There is only so much dance one can do in the midst of a kiss, but a motif of bent elbows meeting and hands extending blindly and never quite meeting works well.

    Things get hot when Rachelle Rafailedes appears, pulling Nolan into a big, funky duet to Baby Let Me Kiss You. The unconstrained, explosive dancing is a welcome change of pace and great fun to watch.

    Sly Stone, in the body of Raja Feather Kelly, brings things back down a bit to sing That Kind of Person for a bittersweet ("I loved... when you shunned me") duet between Kelly and Jenna Riegel, choreographed by David Dorfman. Riegel lifts the much larger Kelly onto her shoulder and even chugs around a bit with him there before the two fly together and slide apart in good Dorfman style, funny with a tinge.

    And funny with a tinge is a good way to describe Faye Driscoll's work-in-progress duet with Jesse Zaritt, too, without giving anything away to those who see it in the future.

    Bring back the slink, though, for Love Honey, Love Heartache, a luscious duet between Rafailedes and Hsiao-Jou Tang. Tang has a softer style that syncs well with Rafailedes' fireworks and makes her look a bit vulnerable on her own. ("I tried to give you love but you broke my heart.")

    Leave it to Alex Escalante to nail the frustrations of communicating with a lover. His masterful use of live voice loops is hilarious. Looping repetitions of "repeat yourself so I can understand and I'll do the same for you" drive that point home beautifully, and the ad libs he does over Out of my Reach by The Temprees and Kiss and Say Goodbye by The Manhattans are funny commentary during the music that become poignant on their own when the songs are over.

    Abraham and his well chosen dancers have the last word, though. The trio of Elyse Morris, Montiero and Rafailedes shifts seamlessly to a duet between Morris and Montiero with the simple trick of shedding a jacket. When Montiero, who has been dancing mainly with red-haired Rafailedes while both wear red, sheds his red to reveal white, he joins white-wearing Morris in a black duo. This easy shifting is so typical of Abraham's style and so impressive when it is pulled off as well as it is.

    Abraham's musical choices, like the acoustically stripped-down version of Bowie's Let's Dance by M. Ward in the final duo, are excellent, too. They give the evening a universal feel and show the power of crowd-sourcing: he asked people to post their favorite love and breakup songs on facebook and chose from those.

    FEBRUARY 17, 2011

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