“I’m attracted to dancers who are interested in social dance, not just contemporary concert dance,” choreographer Larry Keigwin says during a rehearsal for his company’s upcoming season at The Joyce Theater, March 16-21.
Keigwin’s resume ranges from choreographing for the Martha Graham Dance Company to dancing on Club MTV. His choreography has toed the line between the classical and pop worlds in recent works like Colony, set last winter on Juilliard students to a mash-up of Steve Reich and M.I.A. The result was a futuristic homage to David Bowie and voguing, sprinkled with symmetrical formations and clean port de bras.
The seven-year-old Keigwin + Company extends their hybrid of pop and traditional concert dance in their first solo season at the Joyce this month, performing a mix of early and later works, including Mattress Suite (2004), Caffeinated (2007), and Runaway (2008).
The dances will be performed by the resident six company members, with Runaway featuring ten additional dancers, most from the original 2008 Julliard cast.
“You have to be flexible when remounting a piece because theaters are all so different and dancers are different,” Keigwin says. For Runaway, “the Juilliard Stage was so deep and the runway was so long, but at the Joyce [the dancers] are going to walk in and out of the house.”
The company is also unveiling a world premiere, Bird Watching. During a rehearsal of the new work in a sun-filled studio at the Baryshnikov Arts Center overlooking Hell’s Kitchen, Keigwin’s quirky style came alive in his more-than-willing dancers. Keigwin conducts most of his rehearsals like a scientist conducts lab experiments, unapologetically and fearlessly with the help of his trusty assistants—the dancers.
Bird Watching explores the difference between human and animalistic natures seen in the piece’s intricate partnering and use of the body’s extremities. The dance “is layered but the music is so classical and baroque that the juxtaposition will be seen in the visual [elements] like the costumes,” Keigwin says.
Testing out his most recent creation, Keigwin first had a trio dance an opening sequence with aviator sunglasses on. Instead of looking suave, the dancers ended up in a fit of giggles and discarded the idea almost immediately.
“It’s like a dressmaker,” Keigwin says. “[The dancers are] making the material and I’m sewing the material all together, even [though] they’re sewing at times too.”
While observing one of his dancers goof off on the ground like a Sears Catalog model, Keigwin decided he wanted the others to create eight model-esque poses on their own. The dancers took their task seriously despite how outlandish it appeared.
“It’s great when dancers can make up movement, because they’ll always make themselves look good,” Keigwin says. “They’re not going to do something that doesn’t work on their bodies. So I see this type of collaboration as a positive thing.”
TRINO MANNINO is a dancer and writer living in Brooklyn.