Face to Face: Crafting with Keigwin
A new summer intensive gives participants a glimpse of professional life.
Choreographer Larry Keigwin thrives on city life. His punchy repertoire has touched on overcaffeinated NYC dwellers, risqué nights on the town and the city’s towering skyline. Beyond the concert dance scene, his athletic, pop-meets-modern-dance style has been seen at NYC Fashion Week, in the off-Broadway Rent production and in his burlesque-reminiscent Keigwin Kabaret. Apart from his own Keigwin + Company, he’s created work for The Juilliard School, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
After earning a BA in dance at Hofstra University, he performed with Doug Varone, John Jasperse, Julie Taymor and Mark Dendy before forming Keigwin + Company in 2003. This month, nearly 10 years after producing his first full evening of work, Keigwin debuts “Let’s Make A Dance,” a weeklong summer intensive for pre-professional students. The program, spearheaded by K+C co-founder Nicole Wolcott, will focus on dance composition and will give dancers the chance to see what it’s like to be a member of the company.
DT: Why have you chosen this format over a technique-based intensive?
LK: I want to feature what I’m interested in and what our company excels at, but also what might be missing in the field. There’s so much emphasis on dancers’ technique in other programs, but this is really about training their creative sides. I want to give the students a company experience and treat this like an apprenticeship, so they can see what it’s like to work collaboratively with professionals.Because the end goal for any dancer is to be onstage.
DT: What can students gain working alongside your pros?
LK: It demystifies what makes a professional dancer. There’s really not much that separates the pre-professional from the professional. I hope that my dancers’ charisma rubs off on the students and helps them feel confident in their dancing. I want to help them cultivate an authentic way of moving and security in their improvisational voices. And I think they’ll just become more kinesthetically aware. When you dance with someone who may be better than you, it forces you to up your game, learn more and move better.
DT: What inspires you?
LK: I like pop culture, contemporary art, architecture, pedestrian life—observing people in this urban jungle is inspiring. But I’m really inspired by dancers. A dancer could just walk into a studio and do something physical that is a complete catalyst for a whole dance. My process is highly collaborative; a lot of the vocabulary comes from my dancers. They’re not trying to look like anyone but themselves, and I pull from their comfort zones.
DT: When making new work, what are your go-to composition tools?
LK: I have games and assignments I use. For example, I’ll send three people off to make a phrase that has to be “spit, sparkle, slide.” Sometimes I’ll do a throw/catch game where I improvise and my dancers have to quickly pick up the movement and set what they think I did. I also like to use gestures from everyday actions, like using kitchen appliances.
When I do theater projects I have to come in a little more prepared, because timing is tight, but I still spend an hour working with one of my own dancers first. I never really do anything alone. I’m actually an editor. I’m the dressmaker, but everybody builds the fabric. DT
Photo by Whitney Browne, courtesy of Keigwin + Company