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Keigwin + Company @ The Joyce

Published on
December 15

Keigwin + Company performed at The Joyce Theater on December 8th-13th, 2015. The work of its artistic director, Larry Keigwin, is characterized as energetic, highly physical contemporary dance. The program featured the New York premiere of Larry Keigwin’s first solo work in a long time, “3 Ballads,” the world premiere of commissioned choreographies by Loni Landon and Adam Barruch, and Keigwin favorites “Exit Like an Animal” (2014) and “Sidewalk” (2009).


Larry Keigwin is known for choreographing pieces with large numbers of people, and that is what made seeing him dancing alone so special.  His solo piece, “3 Ballads” was really three short interludes danced along to Peggy Lee ballads interspersed between the longer pieces. For me there is always something deeply powerful yet melancholy about seeing a choreographer dance. His movements seemed to be explicitly representative of an inward narrative in conversation with the lyrics of songs like “Somebody Loves Me,” “He Needs Me,” and “Something Wonderful.” He wore all black, with shorts and ankle socks reminiscent of the more intimate, personal space of the home. Kiegwin can still dance, of course, but his body is not that of his more youthful dancers. Though a tad oversentimental and strikingly different from the other pieces, there was something charming in his risk of sincere expression, of vulnerability, particularly as a male dancer.


“Exit Like an Animal” was an impressive choreographic feat. I had never seen such dynamic choreography with so many dancers entering and exiting constantly, always in conversation with the music and movements around them. The Joyce stage was the perfect size for the piece because the dancers filled the space without seeming squeezed or dwarfed. The moves were evocative of herds of animals, but also fashion shows, which involved an interesting mix of modern dance, African dance, and nightclub flare. The structure was visually reminiscent of musical compositions with fluid groupings of dancers interacting in counterpoint as if instruments in an orchestral piece.


“Sidewalk” really explored the Joyce space by extending beyond the stage and into the corridors of the audience, even the balcony. The piece was moody and full of tension. It began with pedestrian interactions but evolved into something more psychologically menacing. Some dancers would linger in one place while others ran as far as they could; a dancer chased another, or a group would try to shake one dancer from their stillness. A couple of times one dancer would try to escape the stage and all the dancers would try to stop them, even tearing off jackets, as the dancer seemed hypnotically, magnetically attracted to leaving.


Overall the program was an engaging albeit safe example of contemporary dance. Keigwin stays true to the modern dance form and still finds ways to innovate. “Exit Like an Animal” and “Sidewalk” both deserve admiration for their prowess and intelligence; no beginning choreographer would have been able to accomplish what he did. The commissioned piece by Loni Landon, “Wait Nearby,” was more forgettable, but it is important that Keigwin + Company is making space for new talent. The real value for me was in witnessing Kiegwin’s solo piece, which, while underwhelming in the moment, certainly has a grander resonance in the context of dance history and the personal journey of a dancing body.


The Joyce Theater curates an interesting selection of works every season. Now some tickets even start at $10! I encourage anyone who is interested in seeing more dance performances to start with what’s happening at The Joyce. Keigwin + Company was on sale at the TIC this Fall. Keep checking the TIC for deals on wonderful performances in New York City.

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