'White governments gave us guns and turned a blind eye': Kyle Abraham on his Boyz N the Hood dance

His political fury and upbeat moves make Kyle Abraham one of America’s most original choreographers. He talks about systemic racism, his wrecked home town of Pittsburgh, creating an African opera and playing Obama’s speeches backwards

“I grew up making dances in my bedroom long before I knew anything about dance. It was my outlet. I’d put on a song by Prince or Morrissey, and when I danced to it I’d feel like I was sharing my life with that singer, I’d feel like I was having a relationship with him.”

Kyle Abraham, who recently turned 40, is widely regarded as one of the US’s most original choreographers, his talent acknowledged by accolades such as a MacArthur “Genius” award. Yet despite all those years making weltschmertzy solos in his bedroom, he was 17 before he took his first formal dance class, or even understood that choreography could be a career. Until then he’d been largely focused on music: he had studied classical piano, cello and a “whole other gaggle of instruments”, but he was equally obsessed by rock, house and hip-hop. “Back in the 80s, people listened to everything. I was really into the Digable Planets – I loved their twisty hair, and I tried to grow mine out the same.”

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