Thick description: Larry Keigwin

Every couple of months for a few days, English becomes a foreign language. I slip along its periphery: coffee with foam milk in place of latte. If I have time, I can wait for the words to make their way home, but I didn’t, in the middle of the night, for this Larry Keigwin review. 

I might have said that what gives this comedian choreographer promise–not yet realized, but I believe it will be–is the thickness of his description. He likes topical dances: about social situations or behavior such as the frenzy of daily life and what Starbucks has to do with it, or the hair’s breadth between hostility and tenderness in mattress love. These worn subjects have enough history in dance (not the coffee, for example, but the urban pulse, sure) that Keigwin can create the weave between dance convention and social convention that gives the work density and heft. Or could, anyway. So often the problem with young choreographers is they work either social commentary or dance invention but not both at once or, better, both at once and in relation to the other. Keigwin has all the balls; now he just has to keep them all in the air at the same time.

Here’s part of the review that comes out tomorrow (Friday) in the Financial Times:

Larry Keigwin understands that the comic is only a beat away from the serious: we laugh because we aren’t expecting the swerve. In the all-male pas de trois from the libertine Mattress Suite, Aaron Carr signals his dopey enthusiasm for whatever the other boys in underpants have to offer by bouncing on a mattress, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. The audience lets out a sharp laugh, surprised to find “jumping for joy”, that ham-fisted figure of speech, come to life and simultaneously reduced. If Carr jumped higher or pointed his feet, the joke would evaporate.

Created in six parts from 2001 to 2004 with dancer Nicole Wolcott, Mattress Suite marked Keigwin’s arrival on the choreographic scene. That the longtime dancer could succeed with such an exhausted genre as the romantic dance, parodied or not, made his debut especially impressive.

Keigwin is not always so successful. Caffeinated, the opener in his first solo outing at the Joyce, takes on too slight a subject – the jagged pleasures of a coffee high – to sustain a dance. The season premiere, Bird Watching, needs either to respond more directly to the long love affair between birds and dance – Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty‘s bluebirds, La Fille mal gardée’s chickens – or to create a richer human cognate of birdy behaviour, as Merce Cunningham does with Beach Birds. As it is, the dance neither responds nor invents enough.

Still, Bird Watching reminded me why Keigwin’s work excites people – why presenters have lately showered him with commissions. It’s not just that he is funny. He also…..

For the whole review, click here.

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