Choreographer Larry Keigwin :: Busier Than Ever

by Lewis Whittington
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 20, 2013

In his rave review of Keigwin + Company at the Joyce Theater in New York, EDGE reviewer Steve Weinstein put choreographer Larry Keigwin at the front of the pack of the Queer Choreography movement, saying that Keigwin finds " the right balance between the silly and the solemn."

Keigwin + Company return to Philadelphia this week for the Dance Celebration series at the Annenberg Center with (as he puts it) "a sort of retrospective, for our 10th anniversary as a company, we're on a second generation of dancers; three men and three women and they each bring something special. Some of them are special creators and all great performers. I chose dancers mostly for their magnetic personalities and fierce technique and great creative energy." EDGE spoke with Keigwin by phone from Washington DC last week.

In addition to touring his dance company, Keigwin is in DC to choreograph "IF/THEN," the new musical by Tim Kitt and Brian Yorkie ("Next to Normal") starring Idina Menzel, whom Keigwin met when they were both were in the cast of the musical, "The Wild Party."

"I'm in DC right now. We're in the final stretch of previews and little changes and big ones too. I'm working with Michael Greif, who directed 'Next to Normal' and whom I worked with on the off-Broadway revival of 'RENT.' It's an actor-singer show, a romantic comedy of sorts, but there is quite a bit of dance." The show has a powerhouse cast of 40, including 'RENT' star Anthony Rapp.

Working with Greif hasn’t been Keigwin’s only exposure to musical theater: two years ago, he was the choreographer for the musical adaptation of ’Tales of the City.’ "It was a hit and was financially successful, but it didn’t leave San Francisco, I’m not sure that there were plans to," he recalls.

"I can’t complain about having work," he said reflecting on his numerous projects as a choreographer.

On his last tour stop in Philly, Keigwin was onstage in a towel for the ’Water’ segment of his piece ’Elements.’ Since then he has not been dancing, though "I haven’t said I’m not, but I haven’t been. I ruptured my Achilles about a year and a half ago. The surgery went well and it’s healed, so I’m ready, but I’m not craving the spotlight. Doing double duty is certainly challenging, but I think maintaining a company is about maintaining my voice and always having an outlet for my creative endeavors," he explained. "Of course, I’m lucky that I have a great company manager in Ashley Brown, who is also our rehearsal director who puts the tours together."

Next week, while "IF/THEN" previews, Keigwin will be shuttling between Washington and the dance concerts in Philly. The program includes his newest work, "Girls," set to the music of Frank Sinatra for the women in his company. "When I’m visiting my parents I steal all my dad’s music too. Sinatra is still amazing. You have to choreograph to it in your own way -- maybe work against it sometimes, so you are not catering too much -- so the dance has a life of its own outside of the song. But I think if you find the right balance, to make it work. The dancers move in and out of blue Mylar curtains. We call them rain curtains, and there are four of them in one part, and they kind of take over, to be honest."

Also on the program is "Triptych" (from 2009) which he describes as "an essay on design, it’s very sculptural. It’s also the first time we commissioned a composer, Jonathan Pratt. He composed a very rhythmic, percussive score that at times is ritualistic." Keigwin recalled that they "bounced back and forth" creating the three-movement work. "He would give me little bits of music and I give him feedback, and we built it together. A true collaboration."

"Love Songs," has three couples dancing to songs by Roy Orbison, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin in depicting "different aspects of relationships- co-dependent, dependent or independent" in what Keigwin describes as a search for sexual identity. A signature work, "Mattress Suite," is a bouncy romp on top of the sheets that has recently turned ten years old. "For this anniversary we made a PR campaign that included making mattress dances by people on their own beds, which we edited down to a minute." It is sexy, joyous, intimate and total YouTube funsies.

Speaking of bedrooms, Keigwin and his longtime boyfriend Chris Keesee are "working on 10 years together...Like everything, it’s work," he laughs. Will they become married New Yorkers? "It’s come up in conversation, but we’re enjoying what we have and now so there’s no rush." And while he may be working all over the country, he is "’looking forward to getting back to everything there. "

Keigwin + Company will be at the Annenberg Center Nov. 21-23, 2013 for four performances. For show times and ticket information check www.annenbergcenter.org

Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.


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