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June 29, 2009


"Keigwin + Company mix it up at the Joyce"
By: Quinn Batson

All over the place in a good way is the easy way to describe Keigwin+Company's show at the Joyce Theater. Athleticism, cuteness and solid choreography vie for attention throughout, though the new piece Triptych is unimpeachably good, even great.

Natural Selection (2004) is predictaby athletic and dramatic, as dancers evolve from hand-dragging and earlier forms of life to impressive group collaborations. Tense string music by Michael Gordon gives the piece an edge throughout, and needy, brutal dancing keeps the title of the piece in focus. Plenty of violent grabs and throws and a recurring theme of climbing, walking and flipping off the backstage wall give Natural Selection the feel of asylum inmates trying to escape, and aggressive circling and bodies weighing down other bodies imply combat and struggle. This is an uncomfortable piece with little respite.

Love Songs (2006) are a series of duets by three couples that range from cold and athletic to hot and hilarious. The couples of Ying-Ying Shiau and Alexander Gish, and Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott, dance clever and athletic duets with moments of humor, but real heat and chemistry comes from the duo of Liz Riga and Julian Barnett, who dance hilariously overwrought dramas of love with perfect comedic timing and brilliant acting to music and lyrics by Aretha Franklin. Barnett's hip-thrusting displays, either involuntary or seductive, and Riga's berating fingers and head waggles get the most laughs, and the fluid role reversals in both of their duets are slyly funny.

Triptych is magical from beginning to end, filled with beautiful movement and masterful choreography. Stark but subtle black costumes of varying transparency and body coverage and commissioned music by Jonathan Melville Pratt fit the dance and dancers perfectly, and each of the three parts stands on its own and contributes to the whole. An X of lighted paths across the stage serve as runways for much of the movement. It's difficult to single out dancing from such an impressive group, but moments by Ryoji Sasamoto and Ashley Browne are breathtaking for their fluid beauty. Sharp arm movements to high-tempo music give the last segment vivid energy and a slightly military feel, with Nicole Wolcott and Browne opening and closing the segment with a duet of mad semaphore.

Bolero NYC uses the company and about 50 New Yorkers to create a funhouse mirror version of New York city, set to the music of Ravel's Bolero. It's quite a trick, and Keigwin largely pulls it off, with everything taken to its satirical extreme. There are elements of pure musical theater, dogs and babies, a quartet of sassy sirens in heels, a very tall "celebrity" in nothing but a red tie and briefs, and various other characters and caricatures. It all makes no sense and total sense and is amusing throughout. A progression from mostly black to increasingly scarlet clothes and accessories is subtle but matches the madness onstage, and an ending of waving cellphones in darkness prompts much of the New York audience to whip out their cell phones and wave back at "themselves."

With gymnastic athleticism, beautiful dancing, silly humor and plenty of showmanship and theater, Keigwin + Company cover a lot of ground to fill an evening.

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