Keigwin + Company showed the diversity of their repertoire with their exuberant performance of 5 pieces choreographed by artistic director Larry Keigwin this week at the American Dance Festival in Durham. The contemporary dance company was formed in 2003 by Keigwin and Associate Director Nicole Wolcott. Since then they have performed for audiences in NYC and around the country.
The opening dance, 12 Chairs (2012), was rhythmically hypnotic with its repetition. The music, Flexus, by Jonathon Melville Pratt, comprised of the sounds of marching bands and drum corps, and the lighting design by Burke Wilmore that formed alternating darkened and lit triangles added to the tight structure of the dance and the overall feeling of urgency. If the chairs and patterned movements unified them, the plain clothes costumes by Dane Laffrey set them apart as individuals.
Twelve dancers twitched and fidgeted, looking for comfort in their chairs. The patterns of movement were compellingly geometric, showing lines and shapes in an individual dancer’s posture and varying shapes across a row of dancers at the same time. The intensity of movement grew, from shifting weight to kicking high and jumping on and over the chairs.
Keigwin’s use of the chair as “an extension of the body and a way to conjure emotion” is effective and thought provoking. Sometimes the chair seemed a refuge or source of comfort, and other times an aggravation; sometimes only one dancer sat in control of the chair, while the others were ejected into heaps on the floor. The relationship with the chair resembled a struggle for peace with one’s self.
Trio(2011), danced by Aaron Carr, Kile Hotchkiss and Emily Schoen, was a beautiful demonstration of grace and technique, as well as artistry. To the music of Adam Crystal, No. 6 for Piano, Marimba, Cello, Violin, the 3 dancers filled the stage, moving around each other independently, then clinging, pulling and lifting each other dramatically to the sound of the strings.
Natural Selection was premiered as an ADF commissioned piece in 2004. It was disturbing and exciting. Six dancers expressed animalistic survival behaviors that ranged from attacking each other as perceived competitors to cooperating with one another. They tried to get over a brick wall that only sometimes came into view across the back of the bare stage. They attempted to crawl to freedom through self-made tunnels, only to be crushed by the weight of the escape route.
This dance was made especially striking by the stage set and lighting. The side curtains were removed, fully exposing the wings and lighting fixtures, and the back half of the stage was kept dark except when the dancers were attempting to climb the wall, which gave the stage depth and the look of a vast emptiness fitting to the theme.
Contact Sport was a world premier this year, commissioned by ADF. This whimsical dance captured the innocence and jovial competitiveness of 4 brothers in front of sparkly blue streamers to the vocal stylings of Eartha Kitt. Like schoolboys, one playfully pulled at another’s ear, they poked and pushed… you could imagine them getting each other into and out of trouble regularly. In the midst of this physically demanding dance (as they all seem to be), and at the crescendo in the song It Was a Very Good Year, the brothers stood side by side, arms around each other, facing upstage in stillness, as if looking off into a shared past or future. This is just one example of Keigwin’s ability to use subtlety and stillness without losing the intensity of the feeling.
Contact Sport and Megalopolis(2009), the last dance of the night, shared something in common on the stage not often found in modern dance – smiles. That may be the only thing they shared in common, though. The stage for Megalopolis was set with light posts, like standing lite sabers, across the back. The dancers wore metallic silver or black, some with diamond-like trim and futuristic space-person shoulders, to which I can’t do justice in words. The costumes designed by Fritz Masten were a highlight of the piece. The music started with the monotonous sound of Sextet Marimbas by Steve Reich. The movements were sharp and steady, square and emotionless. Now and then the music shifted to World Town/ XR2 by MIA, the lights lifted and the dancers broke into hip-hop. This dance had the audience screaming throughout, as the dancers took turns showcasing unbelievable malleability. Visually, the experience was a cross between a fashion show and a 1960’s science fiction movie. It was a wonderfully exhausting finale to behold.
The program was diverse and showed such talent from the directors, choreographer and dancers, to costumes and lighting. The dancers’ superb technique and visible strength made them captivating to watch. This is a company that performs non-stop and authentically and a choreographer with a mind for his art and for his audience.
Review and photographs by Denise Cerniglia