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Keigwin + Company - "Elements"

by Lori Ortiz
July 28, 2008
The Joyce Theatre
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
Larry Keigwin's "Elements" captured our opening night crowd, (average age 40,) judging from the standing ovation. The second half of the show, "Air" and "Wind," had the power to uplift.

Who said there's nothing new under the sun?

The Summer fun at the Joyce is just what the doctor ordered for a steamy, Monday July 28th. My highbrow, gay, Californian guest found it Disneyfied, (Keigwin was once associate choreographer for a Disney musical workshop.) But even the curmudgeon fell spell to the Keigwin + Company joi de vivre. Across the board appeal is an accomplishment for a choreographer who costumes his cast in terry towels and flashes what looks like full frontal nudity in sumptuous lighting to Mozart.

What to expect from an evening-length dance about the elements from a postmodern, cabaret, and musical theater choreographer? In "Water," Liz Riga, in a faux French maid costume, serves Poland Spring to Alexander Gish as he does a stand-up ‘Odalisque' act. He ends posing in various fountain guises. "Water" finishes with a flourish; five spout in unison like a group of biped whales traveling upstage.

"Earth" consists of four sections: Gecko, Chameleon, Dragon, and Iguana. The characterizations create a showy family. Riga's Dragon solo to "Stormy Weather" is a sorrowful, storybook illustration of the music. In "Earth," leapfrogging, sharp, stealthy changes in direction, suggest the reptilian. Varied plaid costumes, in the nuanced lighting, create a chameleon-like, ever changing drama.

Ryoji Sasamoto, in his first K + C season, steals "Fire." He wears a fluorescent orange unitard with shaggy fur sleeves. He's quite a siren, acrobat and artist, blending yin-yang without affectation. His arms don't just windmill, they appear to propel him forward. Flanked by Ashley Browne and Nicole Wolcott in red sequin caps (his is black) they flirt with flames, licking the air with scarves. There's nothing of the passion associated with fire however. In fact, each of the elements is a play field for K + C puzzles and games.

The punk Iguana, to "Whip It," and "Fire's" final section Flame, to "Walk It Out" veer into the territory of musical theater routine. But after intermission, the lovely "Air" stands cogently. Tack on "Wind" too. From "Air's" witty beginning— Halliburton carry-ons are pushed in from the wings and retrieved by the dancers— to the evening's bittersweet end, "Elements" feel-good dance narrative jells.

Keigwin concentrates the kernel of each work in his marvelous endings. Balloons fall from above in "Air," (how 'low' can you go?), delighting the mesmerized crowd. Then Gish and Keigwin bust two of the pink bubbles. The company, in flight attendant uniforms, runs in complex interpolating patterns to Phillip Glass's "Channels and Winds." In the closing "Wind," Gish stands facing upstage, swaying; his extended arms lead. His reach suggests the gentle buffeting of God's breath.

Costumes by Liz Prince count for at least some of Keigwin's genius. Lithe, petite Ying-Ying Shiau flies in a pink silky winged dress in one of "Elements" several classical moments, supported by two crewmen. Her flexibility and ballon dazzle. Ending in blackout, "Air's" Float section has her lifted in the irridescent glow of Burke Wilmore's standout lighting— to magical effect.

The choreographer entertained at bar mitzvahs early on. But roots in companies like Mark Dendy's certainly helped mold his concert dance craft.



Ryoji Sasamoto in "Elements"

Photo © & courtesy of Tom Caravaglia


Ying-Ying Shiau in "Elements"

Photo © & courtesy of Tom Caravaglia


Larry Keigwin

Photo © & courtesy of Tom Caravaglia

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