Choreographer Kyle Abraham: from Food Stamps to MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award

Stefan Doyno
Katie's Take

From food stamps to a MacArthur Grant to owning his own dance studio – Kyle Abraham has had a rough journey. He sat down with Katie to discuss his struggles, and how things have a way of turning around.

Kyle grew up in Pittsburgh, but got his start in dance pretty late.

“The funny thing is for me, starting at around 17, I was think that whole time I was going to be a choreography,” he explained, “The people at SUNY Purchase - they must have seen something special in me.”

School left Kyle in debt, even with awards and grants – over $100,000. Kyle went on to start a dance company, Abraham.In.Motion, but then received devastating news, which put his dreams on hold.

He found out that his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so finding a balance was difficult. Kyle had to go on food stamps for a while to help ease the financial burden.

Things started to turn around when the MacArthur Foundation – which recognizes artistic excellence – awarded Kyle an award.

“How did it happen, and what does it mean?” asked Katie.

“It’s pretty ridiculous,” he admits, “I just got a phone call. It’s an award you don’t apply for.”

So how much money did the MacArthur Foundation give Kyle? $625,000.

“What will you do with the money?” Katie asked.

“My dream had always been to be able to put my dancers on healthcare, so now I can say that’s something I can do for sure,” he said.