Abadoo in her Octavia's Brood: Riding the Ox Home. Photo by C. Stanley Photography, Courtesy Abadoo

25 to Watch 2018: MK Abadoo

MK Abadoo is an unapologetic activist. The dances she creates speak her truth to power. Her choreography offers a socially conscious take on torn-from-the-headlines issues of racial, social and gender equity.

Drawn to community-based work, Abadoo fuses postmodernist aesthetics with fleet-footed and full-bodied West African forms—she spent a Fulbright year in Ghana—and the nonchalant swagger of funk. Her 2015 work Octavia's Brood: Riding the Ox Home is inspired by science-fiction writer Octavia Butler's work and vignettes from the Underground Railroad, toggling between an Afro-futurist view of the U.S. and the searing history of Harriet Tubman. When Abadoo and her dancers stop short, caught by swaths of brown fabric tugging them ceaselessly back, they're trapped in an extension of their skin as Akua Allrich croons "My skin is black." Abadoo's message: The struggle against racism remains real, visceral and unvarnished, and she's ready to confront the issue head-on.



Find out who else made Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list this year.

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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