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"Keeping Good Company"
03/02/2011
NEXT Magazine

Choreographer Larry Keigwin continues to seduce the contemporary dance world with the premiere of his new work, Exit.
 
Larry Keigwin has some pretty fancy friends. Last fall, after serving as artist-in-residence at the Vail International Dance Festival, he joined forces with Anna Wintour to choreograph Vouge’s Fashion Night Out: The Show. Then in October, he workshoped choreography on Betty Buckley for Jake Shears, John Garden and Jeff Whitty’s upcoming musical adaptation of Tales of the City. And this June he will team up with director Michael Greif on an off-Broadway revival of Rent.
 
But there is a reason Keigwin (pronounced keg-win, “Like a keg of beer and you win it”) has become a go-to name in the contemporary dance world. His company, Keigwin + Company, has become a critical darling thanks to its high-energy and theatrical works, including Runaway (2008), Sidewalk (2009) and last year’s Bird Watching in the company’s first solo season at the Joyce Theater in Chelsea. This week they return to the Joyce with an all-new evening of original work, Exit, which fuses Keigwin’s aggressive, flirtatious style with a gritty street sensuality for an exploration of addiction and obsession.
 
But despite the dark themes, Keigwin’s appeal comes from his personal likeability. In preparing for my interview I asked a dancer friend for his thoughts on the 38-year-old choreographer. “It’d pretty hard to piss off Larry,” he said. And it is true. The causal exuberance Keigwin exudes as I sit in on a recent rehearsal in the Joyce Soho is stirring, a sometime rarity in the cutthroat world of dance. He doesn’t seem to care if you take him seriously, so long as you enjoy yourself while at his shows. His youthful company of dancers works hard, but they are also having a good time. And his rehearsal feels more like an experiment than an assignment, a nod to his collaborative approach. “A children’s-book writer once told me he creates books by always asking, ‘What if?’” Keigwin explains to me in the basement lounge of the theater, still sweaty from rehearsal. “What if the character did this? What if I do that? What if this happens? Always, to me, the ‘what if?’ is leaving the possibilities open.”
 
Keigwin came to dance later in life when, at 16, he auditioned for the American Bandstand-inspired Club MTV. He got the gig, backup dancing with no formal training. But he was hooked. He studied at Hofstra University before moving to New York to act as associate choreographer to the Radio City Rockettes and the 1999 off-Broadway production of The Wild Party before forming Keigwin + Company in 2003.
 
Exit is the expansion of a collaboration the company started last April with electro-acoustic cellist Christopher Lancaster. Keigwin was drawn to the ideas of habits and addictions and how they translate in the world of dance. “Oh my gosh. I am hoping that there is a major explosion on stage and the individuals performing are very expressive and very raw,” the Long Island-born choreographer says of the new work, which was originally known as Dark Habits. “I used the [seven stages of addiction] as the skeleton for mapping out this new 60-minute work, which was to me singular dependency, duet dependency, group dependency, then the ultimate euphoric escape and withdraw and recovery.” In addition to Lancaster’s original music, Exit will also feature new work from pianist Jerome Begin—with a little Kanye West thrown in for good measure.
 
It is also unabashedly queer, with men donning heels at times and a section of the evening dedicated to a trio of men at a bathhouse. “I feel that my sexuality is very free…I am a gay person and I think that art is an extension of your personality,” he admits. “If I am honest and open about that it’s definitely going to be in there.” As for that bathhouse? While currently in a relationship, Keigwin admits to doing some research once upon a time, but it isn’t the sex that fascinates him. “I used the patterning of a bathhouse. The idea of how men can communicate just by the direction in which they’re walking and with a glance.”
 
Despite his whirlwind year and the rising stock of the Keigwin name, the choreographer still seems bemused by the success he and his company have found of late. “I’ll be quite honest; it feels awesome, but there are definitely moments of anxiety because it’s a lot to produce in the next six months,” he relates with strained joy. He works full days on Tales while his nights are dedicated to his company and the creation of Exit.  “Rent will open in the beginning of August, so that’s six months of really hard [work].” But don’t think it is always work and no play for this “it” boy. “[After Rent] I’m gonna disappear. Close the Facebook account. I need to go away for three weeks or something!    N


Keigwin + Co presents Exit March 8–13 at The Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Ave, 212-691-9740). Visit KeigwinAndCompany.com and Joyce.org for more info.




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