Driving music for modern and contemporary dance

In Larry Keigwin’s Megalopolis, dancers in shiny biketards repeat isolated arm patterns as they enter and exit from the wings. At first, the music is Steve Reich’s looping marimba melodies, but soon the pulsing beat of M.I.A. booms through the speakers. It transforms the work into a sort of modern dance rave, flashing lights and all. “The direction a piece goes can come from anything, even a piece of music or a particular dancer,” says Keigwin, whose Keigwin + Company turns 10 this fall. “When I made the piece at Juilliard, I set it to Reich, and one day a student suggested we try the dance to M.I.A. I lean on the dancers because they’re inside of the work.”

Keigwin often prefers recorded music because “there’s more room for trial and error” during the creation stage. At first, he looks for something with drive. “I need a catalyst to get us moving in the studio,” he says. Later though, he might throw that out and replace it with some opera or pop. “I’ve even heard music I like at bodegas and asked what was playing. Being an artist is about staying tuned in as an observer—even when you’re outside of the studio.” DT

Artist: Murcof

Album: Martes

“I really enjoy all the tracks on this album. There’s a lot of breathing room in the music to investigate movement qualities through improv. And it feels very modern dance. I like to play it at the beginning of class to set the tone.”

Artists: Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP

Song: “We No Speak Americano”

“It’s nice to use music in a foreign language because you don’t feel so attached to the lyrics and instead connect to the melody and rhythm.”

Artist: Philip Glass

Piece: “Mad Rush”

“I feel like I’m leaning further away from pop than I used to, so in class I like something quieter and melodic. This piece is about 14 minutes. It just rolls along and has an emotional undercurrent that I enjoy. It’s nice for a yoga warm-up or unison improv.”

Artist: Françoise Hardy

Song: “Le temps de l’amour”

“‘Le temps’ is another good foreign pick. I like using it for a study when we’re just creating movement and playing off it.”

Artist: Pat Benatar

Album: Ultimate Collection

“We create a very playful climate in the studio. Even if we’re working on something serious, we always throw in a sense of play and lightness. She brings the energy back up. Her music is great for a combo.”

Artist: Adam Crystal

Album: Final Dress

“Adam is a very versatile young composer whom I most recently collaborated with for a Vail International Dance Festival commission. He has such a range, from very classical to an Eastern feel.”

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