The music of 90s neo-soul star D’Angelo is sparse but luscious, full of falsetto-crooned adoration and lazily infectious groove. Those songs form the soundtrack of US choreographer Kyle Abraham’s An Untitled Love, a piece that’s like eavesdropping on a house party, full of convivial warmth, glowing light, oozing music and the tactility of friends and nascent relationships. On stage, a sofa, rug and plant – a domestic setup where people gather and part, confess, conspire, laugh and flirt. A slice of African American life that’s both specific and universal.
There’s a clear romcom influence (Abraham has cited the films of actor Sanaa Lathan) and we hear their chat as well as see them dance: a gossip about a couple from church, a debate about what outfit to wear, a caddish charmer trying to woo a girl out of his league. The dancing is delicious: honeyed limbs and snaking muscularity and hips finding the funk. A dancer might sashay into a pirouette; retiré before a soft shoe shuffle, in Abraham’s inimitable way of merging styles, classical, modern, social, street, into what feels like a naturalistic language on his dancers.
Those dancers have individual charm: Catherine Kirk’s elegant authority; Dymon Samara joyfully squeezing the juice out of every rhythm. There’s so much pleasure in movement, in each other’s company – the way two bodies perfectly slot together or a group of men throw a few steps into their chat to italicise their words – and in how dances catch alight and spread from one body to two or three. There’s an amazingly skilful slo-mo scene, and there’s subtle insight, like the man whose shoulders squirm and clench under society’s racist gaze, but who then appears to choose freedom for himself in expansive movement.
There’s something revolutionary about staging contemporary domesticity, where very little happens. That’s how most of life happens, of course, but it does at times feel thin as a piece of theatre. Yet it’s enough to enjoy the moment. It ends with a fade out rather than a finale, in line with the sense we’ve just dropped into these lives, rather than them being performed for us.
An Untitled Love is at King’s theatre, Edinburgh, until 21 August.