Review: Keigwin + Company's "elements" Makes a Splash

Keigwin + Company’s performance of "elements" at New York City's Joyce Theater last week turned a timeworn theme into a theatrical fusion of nature’s ingredients. Each one of the four acts represented water, fire, earth and air. “I have a short attention span,” says Artistic Director Larry Keigwin. “So I quickly realized that the suite format worked well for me, because I could do shorter pieces and string them together.” 

Keigwin is known for his provocative, witty works. He has choreographed not only for prestigious companies like Martha Graham, but also for the Rockettes and rousing musicals like The Wild Party.

Each of the "elements" in Keigwin's latest work has degrees of humor and playfulness, but also drama and sometimes sorrow. The music ranges from Mozart to Cole Porter to Devo's popular hit “Whip It.” “What’s powerful about the work is that it has both highs and lows,” Keigwin says. With towel costumes and water bottles, the dancers explore water with shifting formations, pushing the space and molding to each other. In “Sea” a female dancer is lifted, thrown and caught by three male dancers as if being carried by a wave. Dancers in hot-hued unitards mime the unpredictable nature of flames by moving through sharp and slow steps in "Fire." In cautious, grounded, twitchy reptilian forms, the dancers in “Earth” imitate, with incredible dexterity and rebounding motion, our four-legged amphibian friends. All the characters of a standard flight crew soar onto the stage in the final act, “Air.” Ending the show with Phillip Glass’ “Channels and Winds,” the movement is entrancing—with sweeping, seamless formation changes, blurred like a fast-moving wind 

Keigwin shares choreography credits with his dancers. “So many dancers never get a change to choreograph, because the choreographer they work with wants to do everything," he says. "I know I need them. We’re like family. 

Keigwin + Company will be performing at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival August 20–24 in Becket, Massachusetts, where their peculiar and humorous themes are sure to win them even more fans. Look for more upcoming performances on their website.

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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