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Larry Keigwin may be one of the most masterful and inventive choreographers I have seen to date!

Saturday night’s performance of Keigwin + Company at the Joyce Theater left me breathless for a number of reasons.

When I entered the theater, I was greeted by some of my favorite words, “The performance is one hour without intermission.”  This instantly raised the stakes and peaked my curiosity.  It also raised a couple of thoughts:

  • In a world of self-indulgent artists, this choreographer is confident enough in his craft to deliver its message in a short amount of time and respects the time of his audience.
  • These dancers better blow us away, and do so quickly.

I wasn’t disappointed on either front. The power and simplicity of Keigwin’s choreography utilized his dancers’ brilliant technique and, after only an hour, I was left wanting more — a thought I rarely, if ever, have.

The company performed four pieces: Two world premieres, 12 Chairs and Contact Sport, as well as  Trio (2011) and Megalopolis (2009.)

Right off the bat, I was hooked.  Set to Jonathan Melville Pratt’s “Flexus,” 12 Chairs utilized the entire company. The dancers began sitting in their chairs facing the audience and took us on a journey through precise, robotic movement that grew into a frenzied game of Musical Chairs —switching places with each other yet always returning to their spot. Choreographers have used chairs for generations, but Keigwin’s work made the chairs a part of the ensemble, as the dancers slid, inched, and sprung from one to the next. He melded both props and the movement into a piston-like machine wonderfully.

Trio, danced expertly by Aaron Carr, Kile Hotchkiss, and Emily Schoen, evoked visions of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man as there was not a circular pattern left unexplored. The piece evolved from walking in circles into assembles and suspended arabesque turns. Complex partnering further demonstrated the strength of these artists. Demonstrating his grasp on the concept of the choreographic arc, Keigwin took us to the edge of our seats, held us there, and then let us go—in the perfect amount of time.

Contact Sport, danced to the haunting voice of Eartha Kitt, featured  Matthew Baker, Aaron Carr, Brandon Cournay, and Gary Schaufeld, and was a display of playful school yard whimsy. The dancers cracked themselves up as they jostled each other around, grabbing faces and knocking out knees. While remaining true to the lighthearted nature of the piece, the choreography was extremely technical, with more lifts than a classical pas de deux. In places, the gentlemen wove in and out while remaining connected by their hands, reminding me of George Balanchine and how he utilized this maneuver in several of his masterpieces. It’s refreshing to see new takes on familiar, yet minimalistic ideas. Many choreographers give a phrase of movement that is pleasing to the eye but never shows up again making it lost in the mind of the audience member. In Contact Sport, Keigwin excels in his ability to restate themes yet avoid redundancy, making the experience both satisfying and enjoyable.

The evening came to a laugh-out-loud close with Megalopolis. Set to Steve Reich’s “Sextet-Six Marimbas, the piece had alien-esque costumes, designed by Fritz Masten, and bold lighting by Burke Wilmore.  In faux serenity, the dancers isolated their bodies and thrust their pelvises into the hearts and funny bones of all.  There were several elements liketriplets and prances, key in any traditional modern dance classroom, which Keigwin arranged in patterns that made it appear as if the dancers never stopped dancing—even after exiting the stage.  This piece had moments of contemporary diva-esque hilarity that in today’s society can be cliché and at times overused.  However, Keigwin’s used these elements well;  perfectly placed and completely appropriate.  I almost had to stop myself on the street from “jazz tipping” as I walked. I must add that the men in the company were frighteningly good at this.

Larry Keigwin is a choreographer for the audience as well as the dancer.  His work leaps off the stage, grasps you by the hand and says, “Come with us.  This will be fun.” What a night for New York dance!

 

Written by Matthew Donnell

Matthew Donnell

A graduate of North Carolina School of the arts, Matthew Donnell is a freelance dancer, actor, clown, instructor, and film maker residing in NYC. After a decade with the Kansas City Ballet, he turned his focus toward musical theater and teaching. He strives to bring the humor of his life into his art in order to promote artistic health for himself and those around him.