Keigwin+Company bring sublime modern dance
BY STEVEN MARK / firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Keigwin is a professional dancer and choreographer whose work has been noted for its energetic, music-video sensibility, but he bases his work in the most basic human movements.
“I’m always mixing different kinds of music, but I’m certainly mixing lots of different types of dance and hopefully primarily rooted in the pedestrian, meaning human,” Keigwin said in a phone interview.
“I like all the pedestrian moves — walking, running.”
Keigwin’s eight-member traveling dance company comes to Hawaii this week for a concert at Leeward Community College.
KEIGWIN STUDIES the movements people make, breaking them down into parts, then re-forms and reshapes them anew into something unique.
KEIGWIN + COMPANY
Where: Leeward Community College Theatre
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $15-$30; $10-$25 in advance
Info: www.etickethawaii.com or 944-2697
Also: Keigwin + Company perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the University of Hawaii-Hilo Performing Arts Center; $12-$25, artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu or 974-7310
“Sometimes I find meaning in it, and sometimes I don’t, and that’s the difference between a dance that’s a little more abstract or has a more narrative line,” he said, explaining why some of his works have generic titles, like the abstract “Tryptich,” while others are more defined — such as “Caffeinated,” which Keigwin called a “witty look at the coffee culture craze.”
At the same time, he has music of all varieties running through his mind. His program here will feature music ranging from contemporary composer Philip Glass to classic rock star Roy Orbison and soul singer Aretha Franklin.
“It’s a big trial-and-error sort of experiment,” he said. “We start creating movement through improvising, to any music … and I see what’s resonating, or what makes for an interesting match, and that match may be something that’s unexpected, like Eartha Kitt with four guys.”
That combination is the basis for “Contact Sport,” one of the four works that his company will perform here. It’s a semi-autobiographical work in that Keigwin grew up in a family of four boys who were all athletic and enjoyed roughhousing.
“It’s very jocky, very athletic,” Keigwin said of the work, which was compared to “the rapid-fire dialogue of a 1930s film comedy” in The New York Times.
HIS COMPANY, first formed in 2003 and based in New York, rapidly became one of the most popular on the dance tour circuit.
Reviews have taken note of Keigwin’s background as a dancer on Club MTV, a 1985-1992 dance show that fits neatly between “American Bandstand” and “So You Think You Can Dance” in the pantheon of TV dance shows.
That background gives his dances, though filled with distinctly modern and classical ballet motifs, an entertaining quality that hipsters can enjoy.
Keigwin “doesn’t make blatant references to, say, Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, but his pieces suggest that he’s paying close attention to celebrity, fashion and music trends,” wrote Lisa Traiger of the Washington Post.
As a former television dancer, Keigwin said he appreciates programs like “America’s Best Dance Crew” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” but he worries that such programs emphasize winning rather than dancing.
“I think it’s great that it brings exposure to the dance field, and in a way it’s educating audiences,” he said, “My only hesitation is that it not always be competitive, because really, I want to value dance as an art form and that it’s expressive and a way to communicate.”
That sense of communicating and sharing in a noncompetitive atmosphere is part of the reason that Leeward Community College and other venues in Hawaii bring acts like Keigwin’s to the state. Keigwin’s company will be doing master classes for dance students here, said LCC theater manager Joe Patti.
“We’ll have kids from Castle High School and M.F.A. students from the dance program at University of Hawaii-Manoa who will come,” Patti said. “It’s important to be able to offer exposure to new ideas and ways of doing dance and choreography. … That’s part of the whole package.”
Leeward Community College is part of an interisland consortium of arts presenters who keep tabs on touring performers and arrange for them to visit Hawaii, Patti explained. That enables costs to be shared and for arrangements to be made collectively and for ticket prices to be affordable, but it does require a lot of coordination among the different members.
“Sometimes it may take five or six years to get an artist out here, to make sure everyone’s interest and schedules align,” Patti said.
KEIGWIN’S COMPANY came onto Patti’s radar when it gave some well-received performances at the Joyce Theater in New York.
Patti was particularly taken by an incident in which Keigwin was working with Juilliard students and saw them dancing to the music of singer M.I.A. outside of rehearsal and incorporated it into the piece.
“He takes his inspiration where he finds it,” Patti said.
As with other mainland performers, it was not hard to persuade the dance troupe to come out to Hawaii, once its schedule was open, Patti said.
“It’s kind of cold in New York this time of year, and it’s not in Hawaii,” Patti said with a laugh. “A lot of times it’s easy to motivate people in Minnesota and New York to come out here.”