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Keigwin + Company’s program lit up the stage at the American Dance Festival last Tuesday, both literally – with bright lights and flashy costumes – and in spirit. The concert began with a new work, “Chairs,” followed by the lofty “Trio” and the competitive “Natural Selection”; the second half of the program featured “Contact Sport,” a highly physical quartet for four men, and “Megalopolis,” a work formed at the intersection of minimalism and hip-hop culture.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

“Chairs” brought an immediate intensity of focus to the stage. Twelve company members stood, sat and shifted their weight with rhythmic precision, amplifying the power of the drums in composer Jonathan Melville Pratt’s “Flexus.” Dancers’ movements swelled as the music became more complex; Keigwin’s layered choreography and strategic lighting design allowed dancers in each section of the stage unique moments of visual pull. Chairs performed their own dragging, scooting, turning and folding vocabulary in addition to amplifying the dancers’ inversions and lifts. “Chairs” peaked as dancers, seated side-by-side, engaged in playful gestural conversations and rippling movement.

The night’s second piece, “Trio,” proved refreshingly simplistic. Two men and one woman, dressed in black briefs and bare-chested (the woman wore a nude leotard), performed balletic phrases in alternating unison and fugue, imbuing both loftiness and gentle sensuality into their movements.  Keigwin’s choreography mirrored tonal qualities of the music, “No. 6 for Piano, Marimba, Cello, Violin” by Adam Crystal; dancers remained upright with piano accompaniment but moved to the floor when Crystal introduced the low strings.   Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this piece was not its revolving pairing in partnering and lifts, but instead the subtle differences in each dancer’s approach to identical choreography.

“Natural Selection” brought Darwinian Theory to the stage with notable accuracy. In this work, Keigwin explored three main survival tactics: procreation, community cooperation and individual competition. Dancers pawed at one another early in the piece with a clear sexual appetite and performed duets that necessitated codependence. A stripped stage allowed dancers access to the backstage wall mid-piece; the performers ran, climbed and reached up the wall with the intensity of a caged animal trying to escape captivity.   Throughout the work, grouping and isolating dancers proved to be effective tools in illustrating survival of the fittest situations.  With its conceptual complexity and well-crafted choreography, “Natural Selection” was a perfect way to end the concert’s first half.

“Contact Sport” began the second half with a bit of nostalgia. This highly physical quartet featured four men – meant to represent choreographer Larry Keigwin and his three brothers – engaged in brotherly bonding to the music of Eartha Kitt.  The clean-cut men teased one another and had physical competitions throughout the work, but always in good fun. Though the majority of the work’s movement vocabulary stemmed from modern dance, one dancer brought his B-boy skills to the stage; this brought a strong energetic shift to a piece that was otherwise even-keeled. Overall, “Contact Sport” was enjoyable but was not a standout in an evening of memorable dance.

The program closed with “Megalopolis,” an avant-garde take on life in an ant colony – except this piece was way cooler than whatever ant-dance you just pictured. Dancers clad in futuristic, glittery black and silver bodysuits began the work to music excerpts by composer Steve Reich. Company members often moved across the stage in single file, indicating a sense of hive mind. Chugs in deep plié and pelvic and leg gyrations gave Keigwin’s choreography ties to African dance, but the repetitive circular patterns in Reich’s composition seemed to stifle the movement’s energetic potential. And that’s where music megastar M.I.A. came in.

Though their choreographic phrases remained the same, Keigwin’s dancers lit up from within when Reich’s music switched to M.I.A’s “World Town,” and later to “XR2.” From that point on, dancers began to *WERK, for lack of a better term, and the audience couldn’t get enough. Audience members whooped and hollered as dancers introduced **waacking vocabulary to their phrases, and as stage lights grew flashier. When the electrifying “Megalopolis” had finally come to a close, audience members rose to their feet for the company’s final bows.

As an artistic director/choreographer, ADF Alumnus Larry Keigwin knows a thing or two about pacing and overall composition, and with dancers like his, Keigwin + Company concerts are sure to sell out for years to come.

*Click the link and see definition 3

**See “Voguing”

See excerpts from the company’s concert here:

Keigwin + Company

Artistic Director: Larry Keigwin

Executive Director: Andrea Lodico Welshons

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Reynolds Industries Theater, Durham, NC

Presented by: The American Dance Festival

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