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    Bird Watching: (L-R) Aaron Carr, Matthew Baker, Ashley Browne in Keigwin and Company: Joyce Theater
    Photo by Christopher Duggan
    Bird Watching: (L-R) Aaron Carr, Matthew Baker, Ashley Browne

    Coming Together

    Keigwin + Company dazzle the Joyce


    It's always exciting to see someone take a big opportunity and run with it; Larry Keigwin has taken his first Joyce Theater solo run and stormed the stage with a good mix of older and newer material.

    Choreography by: Larry Keigwin.
    Dancers: Matthew Baker, Ashley Browne, Aaron Carr, Kristina Hanna, Larry Keigwin, Liz Riga, Ryoji Sasamoto, Gary Scheufeld, Nicole Wolcott
    guest performers: Kameron Bink, Charlotte Bydwell, Carlye Eckert, Kevin Ferguson, Kile Hotchkiss, Anila Mazhary, Corey Pancake, Rachelle Rafailedes, Jaclyn Walsh
    Costumes by: Fritz Masten, Jen Houghton, Elizabeth Payne.
    Lighting design by: Burke Wilmore; original Runaway lighting by Clifton Taylor.
    Managing Director: Andrea Lodico Welshons.
    Business Manager: Salena Watkins.
    Joyce Theater
    March 16-21, 2010

    Caffeinated shows much of what Keigwin does best: frenetic but smooth movement to driving and rhythmic music, here a well chosen piece by Philip Glass; plenty of straight-arm swinging and big turning jumps that both sometimes break into beat-mapping bits to play with dynamics and tempo; and lightning-fast transitions from floor to feet and back, often with the help of a partner or partners. Throw in a bit of operatic lip-synching and some Broadway musical /Busby Berkeley chorus lines/cascading groups and the Keigwin + Company vibe is pretty much covered. And what better choice of topic to convey the energy that radiates from the dancers? Whether or not these performers drink coffee, they operate at speeds most could only approach while supercaffeinated. It almost goes without saying that humor bubbles in and out of every movement and scene. In a sea of cup-clutching maniacs, Keigwin, Nicole Wolcott and Ashley Browne find ways to stand out with humor and razor-sharp motion.

    Mattress Suite is approaching opera-length in its comic but empathic exploration of a more or less doomed new marriage. Dress gives Nicole Wolcott, co-founder of Keigwin + Company, room to show her serious dancing and acting chops in a touching solo of an eager bride full of anticipation for her wedding night and marriage. Tuxedogives Keigwin the chance to do the same in his solo of a nervous groom psyching himself up for what probably does not come naturally to him. Straight Duet makes the sadly missing connection between the two a thing of beauty and congruity; it is one of the best male-female duets out there by a pair that seem perfectly matched when they dance, full of smooth gymnastic partnering, leaping and bouncing onto and off of a mattress. Sunshine, danced by Keigwin to "Ain't No Sunshine" (when she's gone) manages both to convey the emotion of the song and make us laugh, perhaps partly because his costume is "underwear." Three Ways is a menage a trois on a mattress by Keigwin, Aaron Carr and Matthew Baker to music by Verdi, full of slapstick humor and beautiful partnering. The three find soft and clever ways to fold and catch each other, cupping a head or buckling a joint quickly and smoothly. After this trio, At Last, the reunion of Keigwin and Wolcott at the mattress, seems especially bittersweet.

    Runaway: Gary Schaufeld in the air in Keigwin and Company: Joyce Theater  
    Photo by Christopher Duggan  
    Runaway: Gary Schaufeld in the air
    After an intermission, the new piece Bird Watching really flies. Glitter on fluttering hands and in stripes on black and white costumes gives the five birds a certain magpie element. Hayden's "Symphony No. 6 in D Major" gives the piece energy and depth. The opening allegro ("Flocking") is full of energy and life, and though a tiny hand-waving gesture threatens to take over at times, plenty of big, quick ballet movements keep dancers flying and interesting. A white stage with a single chandelier overhead gives a nice formality and simplicity that matches the music well. Keigwin is adept with formal group sections of pure movement like this opening. A darker adagio bathed by Burke Wilmore in blue and purple light ("Flapping") is also softer and quieter, lulling the viewer a bit, and it ends slightly oddly with a dying/tiring bird in a gentle spotlight. A lively trio by Matthew Baker, Ashley Browne and Aaron Carr ("Fluttering") is full of gymnastic partnerings and beautiful movement, and the final group section "Flying" is a spinning and swirling affair with one bird-dancer flown aloft and offstage by the other four to end the piece. There are just enough bird references sprinkled through the piece to keep it avian without ever running the risk of cheesy overkill, a nice balance.

    In a refreshing departure, the curtain remains open for a big scene change between the birds and the following piece. Watching the stage crew expertly roll and remove flooring and backstage fabrics is interesting in itself, but dancers coming onstage to dress and "prepare" keep things light and easy to watch.

    Runaway, a large-scale piece originally commissioned and performed by the Juilliard School on its enormous stage, feels a bit like a happy mess on the much smaller Joyce stage, though using the theater aisles is a nice touch to add real estate and loosen things up. Original music by Jonathan Melville Pratt loses some of its primacy here but keeps things moving. The action really heats up toward the end with a big group of men lofting others, and the piece never lacks energy or color. It is a good sendoff for a strong evening.

    MARCH 18, 2010

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