A.I.M by Kyle Abraham Engages George Mason University and Local Community

Mason School of Dance with Gianna Theodore

Mason School of Dance juniors and seniors with A.I.M artist, Gianna Theodore, at an A.I.M Movement Workshop.

On February 17, A.I.M by Kyle Abraham presented a thrilling collection of works by acclaimed choreographers, including its artistic director and MacArthur Genius Award-winning choreographer Kyle Abraham.This company aims to create a body of dance-based work that is galvanized by Black culture and history, featuring the rich tapestry of Black and Queer stories. In a recent San Diego Union-Tribune article, A.I.M’s goals are emphasized, noting, “In Kyle Abraham’s movement vocabulary, certain words are in regular rotation. ‘Purpose. Intention. Fearlessness.’ All are streams of thought that inhabit choreography meant to explore themes of history, identity and Black culture.”

A.I.M Movement Workshop with Dance Place in Washington, D.C.
A.I.M Movement Workshop with Dance Place in Washington, D.C.
Want to learn more about A.I.M by Kyle Abraham’s mission and core values? Read more on the company’s official website.

As a Mason Artist-in-Residence, members of A.I.M by Kyle Abraham worked with Mason as well as communities within Manassas, Washington, D.C., and local communities in a variety of activities ranging from classroom visits to A.I.M Movement Workshops that brought participants up on their feet.

Programming and Engagement Manager at the Center Vic Adebusola notes, “A.I.M by Kyle Abraham was a pleasure to work with and I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring them to our campus and local community. They facilitated several impactful workshops and participated in panels that fostered cultural exchange and understanding of the lived experiences of Black dancers and artists. I think it’s safe to say that A.I.M left a lasting impact on our community partners and audience alike.”

Putting the "Artists" in Artists-in-Residence: Meet the Participating A.I.M Artists

Jamaal Bowman

Jamaal Bowman (he/him) began his dance training at the age of 14 in Maryland, where he was born and raised. In 2021, he graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a Director’s Scholar, under the direction of Donna Faye Burchfield. Over the years he has collaborated with Nora Chipaumire, Tommie Waheed-Evans, Maleek Washington, Helen Pickett, Fana Fraser, Jocelyn Cottencin, Nacera Belaza, and Sidra Bell. His personal practices are centered around queer Black joy, theater, improvisation, and comedy. Bowman joined A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in 2022.  

Donovan Reed

Donovan Reed (they/them), a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, began their dance training at the age of 16. Soon after, Reed attended college at The University of the Arts where they received their BFA in May of 2016. They have performed works by choreographers such as Sidra Bell, Regina Van Berkel, Sharon Eyal, Tommie Waheed-Evans, Beth Gill, Andrea Miller, Tania Isaac, Meredith Rainey, and Helen Simoneau. Reed joined A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in 2018. 


Gianna Theodore

Gianna Theodore (she/her) was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and began her dance training at Ballet East Studio under the direction of Susan Lyle and Chelsea Nasby. Gianna is a graduate of A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, and a three-time YoungArts Merit Scholar/Honorable Mention. She graduated with a BFA in dance from the Ailey/Fordham BFA program Class of 2020. She has performed professionally with artists such as Ebony Williams, Mark Caserta, Maleek Washington, and Jennifer Archibald. Gianna joined A.I.M by Kyle Abraham in 2019.

Kicking off residency activities on February 13 was a discussion and Q&A session with Professor Shauna Rigaud’s section of AFAM200: “Introduction to African American Studies,” moderated by Director of African and African American Studies (AAAS) and associate professor, Dr. LaNitra Berger. A.I.M members Gianna Theodore and Donovan Reed introduced themselves, providing background on their dance history and personal experiences as minorities in often predominantly white dance spaces. In addition to personal anecdotes, the artists discussed the intersection of art and advocacy, connecting those ideas to their participation as dancers in A.I.M. Students were given an opportunity to ask questions.  

Dr. LaNitra Berger (left) with A.I.M artists, Donovan Reed (center) and
Dr. LaNitra Berger (left) with A.I.M artists, Donovan Reed (center) and Gianna Theodore (right).

Dr. Berger reflected on the time with the company, stating, “AAAS thoroughly enjoyed its engagement with A.I.M. and their talented dancers. We believe that art is an important vehicle for fostering mutual exchange and understanding. During the panel discussion with the AFAM 200 students, the A.I.M. dancers touched on many important issues of identity, community, and how movement can energize and empower people to make social change. Our students were thrilled to have multiple opportunities to get to know more about A.I.M. through dialogue and through attending their performance."

Later, in a classroom visit to Mason School of Dance’s “Senior Synthesis” senior students, Theodore was joined by fellow A.I.M company member Jamaal Bowman to discuss pursuing a professional career in dance. The conversation not only covered the logistics of making a living as a professional dancer, but also included the importance of self-advocacy and self-care. Theodore and Bowman shared stories from their career, expanding upon their own artistic journeys and advice that led them down their respective paths.

The City of Fairfax Theatre Company

The City of Fairfax Theatre Company with A.I.M artists Jamaal Bowman and Donovan Reed at "Unifying Uniqueness" workshop.

The day concluded with a special visit to the Center for the Arts by the City of Fairfax Theatre Company where Bowman and A.I.M artist, Donovan Reed, led a part-conversation and part-movement workshop entitled “Unifying Uniqueness.” Adult students investigated ideologies surrounding uniqueness and applied the concepts to themselves, using these discoveries as point of discussion and dance inspiration. The group engaged in a dialogue centered around early memories, culminating in integrated movement with ideas of perception, family, and freedom.

A.I.M artist Gianna Theodore leads Mason School of Dance students in A.I.M Movement Workshop.
A.I.M artist Gianna Theodore leads Mason School of Dance students at an A.I.M Movement Workshop.

The following three days consisted of A.I.M Movement Workshops with students ranging in a spectrum of age, skill level, and location. On February 14, Gianna Theodore led a Movement Workshop with 25 high school dance students at Fairfax Academy for Communication and the Arts. In a recent interview with Dance Magazine, Theodore states, “I learn so much about the dancers through teaching. I just love dance so much, so to transmit my love in this educational way is both challenging and fulfilling.” Jamaal Bowman led participants at Washington, D.C.’s Dance Place and Donovan Reed led approximately 25 high school dance students from Charles J. Colgan High School in Manassas (or Prince William County).   

Mason School of Dance students from freshmen to seniors, totaling over 75 students of advanced skill level, participated in the A.I.M Movement Workshops led by both Theodore and Bowman. Adebusola notes, “I loved observing how shocked the A.I.M instructors were at the talent of our School of Dance students.”

In addition to Mason Artist-in-Residence activities with Mason’s School of Dance, Kyle Abraham’s Drive will be featured in the Mason School of Dance Gala Concert on March 22 and 23. Watch the video below to see the collaboration between Mason School of Dance students and A.I.M by Kyle Abraham company member, Jae Neal:

Prior to A.I.M by Kyle Abraham’s February 17 performance, A.I.M’s Rehearsal Director Jessica Tong joined Mason School of Dance Professor Lawrence M. Jackson for a pre-performance discussion in Monson Grand Tier at the Center for the Arts. After a moderated Q&A session, audience members were given an opportunity to ask additional questions. The performance’s program featured impressive pieces including Someday Soon (Keerati Jinakunwiphat), Just Your Two Wrists (Paul Singh), and MotorRover (Kyle Abraham) as well as a preview of a new work by acclaimed choreographer Andrea Miller titled YEAR.  

“[T]he dancers’ relentless physicality and ability to morph between styles and movement qualities created a through line that ran the length of the performance,” notes Maryland Theatre Guide’s reviewer Justin Rustle. Read the full article.

In a recent Dance Enthusiast article, A.I.M’s consistently impactful performances are emphasized, stating, “Soul-stirring, heartfelt, and empowering, A.I.M. shares a message applicable to everyone: what it means to love. Dance is a professed love language and Abraham creates a script which is a love letter to the art of dance itself." A.I.M by Kyle Abraham not only succeeded in performing an awe-inspiring performance that ended in a standing ovation, but created a lasting impression on Mason’s community and beyond.

Colgan High School students with A.I.M artist

Charles J. Colgan High School students with A.I.M artist Donovan Reed at an A.I.M Movement Workshop.

Read more about the Center for the Arts Mason Artist-in-Residence program, including the upcoming 2023/2024 visiting artist, Small Island Big Song on April 20.

The Mason Artist-in-Residence program is supported in part by the Wendy Frieman and David Johnson Fund.