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Home » News » Former MANCC Resident Kyle Abraham Awarded MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Former MANCC Resident Kyle Abraham Awarded MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Published October 3, 2013

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Kyle Abraham, a 2012 MANCC fellow, was recently one of 24 people to be awarded the 2013 MacArthur Fellowship. According to their website, the MacArthur Fellows Program “awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” (More information on the MacArthur Fellows Program can be found at

kyle abraham

Photo by Chris Cameron

This highly coveted award comes to Abraham a little over a year and a half after his 2012 residency at Florida State’s Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC). While in residence, Abraham began developing Pavement which he performed as a part of the 2012 Seven Days of Opening Nights. The work draws its inspiration from John Singelton’s 1991 film of the same name and W.E.B Dubois classic essay, The Souls of Black Folk, and is set to a sound score that mixes Philippe Jaroussky’s operatic score, Carestini: The Story of a Castrato with the sounds of an urban city. 

Upon receiving the award, Abraham was overcome with emotion saying, 

“It was a shock. I was laughing about it; I was crying about it, it was so overwhelming. I’ve been trying to figure out how to pay off my student loans to this day.” (Quote courtesy of

 That should not be a problem now considering the MacArthur fellowship comes with a stipend of $625,000, paid over the course of five years; a vast difference from living off of food stamps just three years ago. 



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 “In 1991, I was fourteen and entering the ninth grade at Schenley High School in the historic Hill District of Pittsburgh. That same year, John Singleton’s film, Boyz N The Hood was released. For me, the film depicted an idealize ‘Gangsta Boheme’ laying aim to the state of the Black American male at the end of the 20th century. Twenty years later and more than ten years into the 21st century, I am focused on investigating the state of Black America and a history therein. Reimagined as a dance work and now set in Pittsburgh’s historically black neighborhoods, Homewood and the Hill District, Pavement aims to create a strong emotional chronology of a culture conflicted with a history plagued by discrimination, genocide, and a constant quest for a lottery ticket weighted in freedom.

As two rivaling neighborhoods, their histories run parallel. Both experienced a cultural shift in the 1950s when jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performed at local theaters and Billy Strayhorn spent most of his teenage years. Over a century later, those same theaters are now dilapidated. And the streets that once strived on family run businesses and a thriving jazz scene now show the sad effects of gang violence and crack cocaine.”

-Pavement as described by Kyle Abraham via

Kyle Abraham “Boyz N the Hood: Pavement” Research in 2012 from MANCC on Vimeo.

More About Kyle Abraham:

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Kyle Abraham is a choreographer and dancer probing the relationship between identity and personal history through a unique hybrid of traditional and vernacular dance styles that speaks to a new generation of dancers and audiences. In works for his own company, Kyle Abraham/, and others, startling shifts in gestures and music create a rich dialogue between internal emotional landscapes and shared cultural experiences. 

Kyle Abraham received a B.F.A. (2000) from the State University of New York at Purchase and an M.F.A. (2006) from New York University. His choreographic works have been performed by both his company, Kyle Abraham/ (founded in 2006), and others at such venues as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Joyce Theatre, Harlem Stage, Danspace Project, On the Boards, the Kelly-Strahorn Theater (Pittsburgh), and REDCAT (Los Angeles), among many others.

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