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Keigwin + Company
The Fort Wayne Dance Collective brings acclaimed dance company to town for a special performance
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Among the many accolades and positive notices that the New York based dance company Keigwin + Company has received in its 10 year history is one from a 2009 article in The Village Voice. “One of Keigwin’s greatest gifts is for revealing the individuality of his champion dancers,” wrote Deborah Jowitt. “He lets you see them, he allows you to love them.”
And Larry Keigwin, the company’s founder, explains that, indeed, that was part of the intent when he started what eventually became Keigwin + Company. “I think a lot of what I create is a reaction to my experiences as a professional dancer,” he says. “I danced on Broadway where my costumes didn’t even have my name in it, it had ‘#12’ written in it. But I also danced off-Broadway, in modern dance works, and I always remember the experiences of when I was able to share my authentic self and not fit into a corps.”
“My choreography has a lot of unison at times, but I single out individuals, giving them solo moments to let their personalities shine,” he adds. “What I enjoyed as a dancer is what I enjoy now as a choreographer.”
Actually, talking about the “intent” behind Keigwin + Co’s origins is a little off the mark. Nothing as formal as “forming a company” was initially on Keigwin’s mind. “I was mostly interested in creating dance,” he explains. “The accumulation of making dances and putting on a show is how the company was formed. A couple years later, we got our non-profit and developed an administration, but my passion is putting on a show. (The company) is a means to putting on the next show.”
Whatever its origins, since 2003 Keigwin + Company has established itself as an influential and acclaimed presence in the world of dance. The company has toured all over the country, and received praise for the variety and accessibility of its repertoire.
The pieces in Keigwin + Company’s body of work seem to alternate between what Keigwin describes as “pop” and “formalism.” Keigwin says he’s a fan of photography, so he uses an analogy from the art world to talk about his own work. “There’s a still life, which is very obvious what it is, and then there’s a Jackson Pollack piece,” he says. “It’s literal vs. non-literal, and I think in my work there’s a schism between pop sensibilities — something that’s familiar in contemporary culture — and then abstract, more design driven work.”
The program for Keigwin + Company’s Fort Wayne appearance seems particularly designed to showcase these different aspects of Keigwin’s work.
The first piece is a signature Keigwin + Company dance called “Love Songs,” a series of six duets performed to the music of Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and Roy Orbison.
“Seven” is a short new work (Keigwin says it only premiered last month) with a more lyrical, contemporary feel, featuring the company’s seven dancers set to an accordian and guitar score.
Up next is “Boys,” followed by its companion piece, “Girls.” Keigwin describes these works as jazzier — the quartet of boys in “Boys” dance to the music of Eartha Kitt, while for the trio of girls in “Girls,” it’s Frank Sinatra who provides the soundtrack. “Boys” tells the story of four brothers, and as you might expect the movement is athletic with a lot of interaction. “Girls” is more Broadway-esque, the movement simpler and less intertwined.
The final piece is called “Triptyche,” which takes its title from Keigwin’s love of photography. “In photography, a ‘triptyche’ are three pieces that hang together and relate to each other in terms of design and architecture,” Keigwin says. “Our ‘Triptyche’ is three movements featuring the entire company. It’s a more conceptual piece, a little ‘cooler,’ very precise, rhythmically driven and sexy.”
“When we were putting ‘Triptych’ together, we were rehearsing next to this new steel and glass building that was going up, and I think that influence wove its way in there somehow,” he adds. The music is a new piece written by electronic composer Jonathan Pratt.
As we said, some of the pieces that Keigwin + Company will perform are pretty new, while others have been in their repetoire for a while now. Though Keigwin says the pieces are tightly choreographed, there’s enough room for a dancer to put his or her own interpretation on the work, even the older material. “Love Songs,” for instance, was created on a completely different cast, the first generation of dancers for the company. “Currently, these are dancers that learned those parts; the parts weren’t created on them. So I think they add a lot of their own personality to the work,” Keigwin says. “Every show is different. The choreography is the same, but the dancers have a great freedom to be spontaneous in their performance.”
Following the performance, Keigwin + Co will participate in a Talkback with the audience in the Rolland Gallery. The day before the performance, company dancer Matthew Baker will conduct a Master Class at the Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s facilities (details on that below). “A lot of people are very curious about the process,” Keigwin says. “How you make something from nothing is very intriguing. From dancers, they want to hear from the dancers about how they got the job, how they trained, what was their path to becoming a professional dancer, because those stories are all over the media these days, and they want to know how much of it is true.”
As for Keigwin’s story, he’s a native New Yorker who always enjoyed dancing socially but didn’t start training to be a professional dancer until he was 16. “Yes, that’s late,” he says in response to my next question. “But it’s not uncommon for male dancers. It’s very common for parents to enroll their daughters in ballet at five-years-old, but I don’t find that’s necessarily the case for their sons. So, for a lot of male dancers, it’s a path that’s often discovered by the individual, not necessarily introduced.”
Keigwin needed to do a lot of “catching up,” but says he was a quick study who had a supportive home life and great teachers. He danced professionally for decades (he got his start as a teenager on Club MTV) but at this point is happier working backstage. “I’m 41, and a year ago I ruptured my Achilles tendon,” he says. “That was a bit of a wake-up call. I’m still a dancer, but I don’t have the craving to dance on stage.”
For more information on Keigwin + Company, visit keigwinandcompany.com
The Fort Wayne Dance Collective presents Keigwin + Company
Saturday, April 13 at 8:00 p.m.
Arts United Center
303 E. Main St.
Tickets: in advance — $23 for adults, $21 for students
At-the-door — $27 adults, $25 students
Special discounted tickets $18 for groups of 10 or larger.
Call the ArtsTix Community Box Office at 260.422.4226 or purchase tickets online at tickets.artstix.org
A master class taught by Matthew Baker, member of Keigwin + Company, will be held Friday, April 12, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. in the FWDC Elliot Studio, 437 E. Berry St.
Cost is $25. Call the Fort Wayne Dance Collective 260.424.6574 to register. Space is limited.
Visit fwdc.org for more information