Keigwin + Company
A critic’s job in New York is especially frustrating because it’s so difficult to entice the typical resident, so bewildered by the dozens of choices every day for entertainment. So take this as a proverbial grab by the shoulders: You must go see "Keigwin + Company" during their weeklong season at the Joyce.
Larry Keigwin is most certainly the wittiest choreography around; but at this point, he has reached the status of the finest choreographer of his generation. The only modern dance master today who can match him is Paul Taylor, himself an inspiration for much of Keigwin’s urbane aesthetic.
The Joyce season includes two premiers, "12 Chairs" and "Megalopolis." Except for an electronica score, the two works couldn’t be more different. The title gives away the first piece’s props. Keigwin uses chairs the way Fred Astaire used a broom or shadows or walls, the way male dancers partner women.
The piece incorporates parlor games like "Musical Chairs" (except no one loses his seat), but the choreographer borrows generously from kung fu, moonwalking, hip-hop and other popular forms.
The Gloved One isn’t the only pop reference. Keigwin must spend a lot of time surfing YouTube; "12 Chairs" borrows liberally from everyone from the Pet Shop Boys to ZZ Top, with special emphasis on electronica pioneers Kraftwerk. The result is enthralling and, like all of Keigwin’s works, fun and thought-provoking.
"Contact Sport" benefits from its score of Eartha Kitt songs. What a great choice! Kitt’s kittenish prowling provides music that is, by turns, bawdy, outrageously funny, sentimental and romantic. The four male dancers, dressed like English public school boys, behave like that, too; one even gets briefly depantsed.
"Contact Sport" points up the way same-sex partnering in every sense informs Keigwin’s work. Never overtly sexual, the steps infer that, as well as athletics and horseplay. "Tom Brown’s School Days," however, was never like this, as the men throw each other through the air and go through paces that had the audience cheering.
The program is rounded out by "Trio," a wistful piece. I found the latter part, in which the three dancers reached their limbs out as though trying to grasp what was beyond their reach, more engrossing than the herky-jerky first part.
Which brings me to "Megalopolis," which is, hands-down, the single best dance piece I have seen in years -- or at least since the last Keigwin Joyce residency.
First, those costumes: Try to imagine if the late Nolan Miller, (in)famous for his sequin-and-shoulder-padded clothes for the primetime soap "Dynasty" (not to mention Cher), had costumed the denizens of Oz for the 1939 movie. Now add to that the Space Age fantasies that were LaBelle’s signature, and you’ll come close to the razzle-dazzle. Of special note was a silver body suit worn by a dancer whose voguing would throw shade on any Harlem ball.
Voguing, head-rolling, hip-hop are all taken to the next -- the ultimate level. Like every other choreographer working below 42nd Street these days, Keigwin uses electronica for many of this numbers. Unlike too many of them who work against the score, however, Keigwin understands that this is dance music. The propulsive, kinetic throb of the sound that has taken over club life is slowly taking over modern dance, too, but I wish other choreographers listened to it as carefully as Keigwin does.
At the end of "Megalopolis," my friend and I gave Keigwin the biggest compliment of all: We were dying to go to Splash, to XL, back to my living room -- anywhere -- and dance.
"Keigwin + Company" runs through June 17 at The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave. For info, call 212-242-0800 or visit joyce.org