Keigwin + Company by Matthew Murphy
Larry Keigwin is one of four brothers -- and a twin. That may be one reason his dances are populated with so much hurly-burly action: the world of Keigwin + Co. is an environment where performers play as hard as they work. He's a choreographer who can be slip on-a-banana-peel funny, pop-culture referential, and hipster ironic. But in his dances, the personalities of his company members shine through: 'I'm always excavating movement from the dancers," Keigwin says. The plus sign in the company name balances their ongoing collaboration.
Keigwin grew up on Long Island. He says now that he was always a person with “physical curiosity.” He didn’t know modern dance even existed until he was 16 and didn’t take formal dance classes until he was in his early 20s. Before that, though, he learned some basic circus skills like riding a unicycle and balancing on a tightrope. Not surprisingly, this "jocky" kid was a high school gymnast, although not a competitor.
Larry Keigwin really started dancing in high school in musical comedies. He followed up that enthusiasm at his local college, Hofstra University. He partly paid his way through school dancing at private parties for a company called Chez-zam, appearing at corporate events and over-the-top bar mitzvahs, something he described as being kitchy and full of the kind of campy sparkle he enjoyed.
Once he went professional, Keigwin performed with a number of “downtown” New York companies, including those of Jane Comfort and John Jasperse. He spent six years as associate director of Mark Dendy’s troupe and won a “Bessie” award for his dancing in Dendy’s Dream Analysis. Alongside those commitments, has performed in Dance of the Vampires (which he cheerfully lists on his professional resume as a “Broadway bomb”), choreographed the off- Broadway production of Rent, and created high-kicking numbers for the Rockettes.
In 2002, Keigwin formed a company to develop his own choreography. No one was auditioned: all the dancers were friends or people he knew from other dance circumstances who wanted to work together.
The troupe has two overlapping repertories: the main company, with its relatively serious concert work, and Keigwin’s Cabarets, small scale acts that he first started, he says, because he wanted to throw a party. For these burlesque-inspired performances his regular troupe is augmented by professional drag queens and other theatrical special guests, and their menu of works include everything from a spoof of American Idol to a reverse strip tease.
For this return of Keigwin + Company to the Bates Dance Festival, the company has assembled a retrospective repertory. Natural Selection, from 2004, evokes the amphibious and animal origins of human behavior and ultimately reaches towards flight. In Triptych, from 2009, James Ingall's lighting scheme and the black bands of the dancers' costumes establish architectural geometries that regulate the dancers' exploration of repetition and duration.
When Keigwin's Trio first premiered last year as Balloon Dance, a commission from Works & Process at the Guggenheim, it was surrounded by a set by Jason Hackenwerth made of balloons that waved around the edge of the performance space like a raft of sea anemones. Sadly, the decor was too difficult to replicate on tour, but the three dancers continue to play their liquid interactions against Adam Crystal's original score.
Contact Sport, the newest work on this engagement looks back to Keigwin's schoolboys days with a male quartet built out of memories of his life with his brothers during those long ago Long Island days. Based on studio improvisations that ranged from playing Superman to standing shoulder to shoulder as if posing for family photographs, dancer Brando Cornay wrote on the company blog "We react and sometimes encourage the natural masculine competitiveness that comes into play, but what is making this piece substantial is the bond and underlying support you see come alive." Danced to a medley of songs by cabaret star Eartha Kitt -- including C'Mon A My House sung in rapid-fire Japanese! -- Larry Keigwin's Contact Sport blends brotherly roughhousing with affectionate laughter.
c 2012 Debra Cash