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Dance, Dance-Theatre Review Print

Keigwin Plus or Minus

July 10, 2006 - Durham, NC:

Keigwin+Company returned to the ADF and Reynolds Theater on July 10, signaling continued interest on the part of ADF organizers in choreographer Larry Keigwin's 21st century art version of vaudevillian entertainment. Although I can see that Keigwin and his dancers excel within their chosen parameters, I myself can't work up much interest in what they do. The work strikes me as small and probably better suited for presentation in clubs. Seeing it in the theater was rather like watching TV sitcoms on a Cinemascope screen.

The program opened with the premiere of Orbit, choreographed by Keigwin and the company and set to Steve Reich's four-drum, phased composition, Drumming Part I. The dancers, in snug little muscle-beach clothes, prance around on sexual parade. They "orbit" through the stage space. That requires a lot of running, which serves to use up the time, like bright banter. They form lines, then force themselves to the front of them, body language screaming, "Me first!" Pairings, divisions and rearrangements take place among the six dancers, all of whom are powerful, young and athletic. As the phases change in the rhythms, the dancing gets away from the parodied sexual games. There's lots more running and walking. The line, with pushing and shoving, reappears. The pace becomes frenetic, and everyone does something different and unconnected. At last, a brief male duet! – before yet more running. The end reprises the duet, which is electric, fabulous. Orbit is a masterful translation of Reich's heady music, but other than the duet, I didn't see anything that either amplified the music or built on it.

Following Keigwin's forgettable and seemingly pointless Self-Portrait #1 came another premiere, Love Songs, danced episodically by three couples. Number one gets Neil Diamond; number two, Aretha, and number three, Nina Simone — all great songs. Couple number one fared the best, mostly thanks to the expressiveness of Ying-Ying Shiau and Alexander Gish; their turns were mannered and coolly elegant. The other two had bits of very fine dancing, but the passion was missing. Liz Riga and Julian Barnett, dancing to Aretha's" I Never Loved a Man (the Way That I Love You)," had all the right moves to be sexy, but instead danced a caricature of sexiness. And there was no fire at all in Keigwin's and Nicole Wolcott's movement to Nina Simone's "I Put a Spell on You," which is a highly combustible tune.

Urban Birds, a piece from 2002 for two men and one woman, is an odd mixture of the cartoonish and the lyrical. The real chemistry here is between the men, but that's not fully exploited. The result is like a music hall skit, and only mildly entertaining.

The program closed with yet another premiere, A Modern Line, performed to Ravel's Bolero. This one used dozens of ADF students and community volunteers and the tired story of auditions, competition and divadom among the stagestruck who are continually shoving themselves to the front of the line. There were a couple of very amusing things here and a great sequence in which a divo boy in a boa climbs over the backs of all the others to perform a campy solo, but really, they could have put this on in the Ark for the ADF community and been done with it.