We’re Dancing, Y’all
New York’s Keigwin + Company creates an entertaining dance with the community for Bolero Texas.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, an explosive dance performance took place at the Irving Arts Center. The main attraction: Keigwin + Company, a New York City-based contemporary dance company comprised of Artistic Director Larry Keigwin and six company members. It featured three unique pieces from their repertoire and a fourth world premiere, created with the local community.
Episodes (2014) began the show with a lighthearted tone. All six company members twirled across the stage to an upbeat score by Leonard Bernstein. Costumed in brightly colored skirts, tops, and pants each performer seemed to embody an individual, spunky personality. Luscious leg extensions, sharp, angular arms, and playful partnering welcomed the audience into a world of whimsical chaos. Three men and three women bounced around, above, and in between one another in a swing-like fashion. While the music provided a lively backdrop, the dancers moved their limbs in precise linear shapes.
After a short pause, the curtain lifted to a lone female dancer standing near the edge of the stage, facing the audience head-on. She repeated a series of large, circular arm gestures that would become a major motif throughout Waterfall (2014). One by one, the other company members entered the stage until they formed a diagonal line comprised of cyclical arm arcs and leg extensions. Dressed in all white, the dancers experimented with small robotic arm and hand gestures that clashed with the spirited leaps and rapid turn sequences mimicking the music. Half way through, the connection to the audience dwindled due to confusing relationships between the dancers and a loss of energy from the performers. The precise unison gestural phrases lacked precision towards the close of the piece.
Following intermission, Keigwin + Company presented a series of male/female duets in Love Song (2006). Couples explored the ups and downs of romance through familiar songs from artists Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin, and Nina Simone. One by one, couples dressed in variations of black and white tried on a new relationship. One couple showcased young love through flirtatious pokes and smiles. The male mover caused an eruption of audience laughter by pulling down his partner’s skirt as she shrugged and smiled. This innocent humor continued through the second couple’s more physical duet. Gesturing the woman with a hip motion, her head went dizzy with frenzied head circles. However, the third couple presented a more mature relationship that focused on the intimacy between them. The sincerity of their chemistry appeared in the tightness of their grip as they pushed and pulled against each other desperately.
Saving the best for last, Bolero Texas! (world premiere) was the culmination of two weeks of community engagement. Commissioned by the Irving Arts Center, Keigwin + Company spent weeks before the performance working with community members of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and abilities to research stereotypes, features, and characteristics of Texas. To start, members of the community walked back and forth across the stage pulling suitcases behind them. With the setting of an airport, the cast ran to catch a flight, looked at maps, and hugged their loved ones. Cowboy boots, jeans, western button downs, and cowboy hats filled the stage in a flurry of familiarity and discovery. The company members acted as airplane stewards for a short section of simple footwork and airline gestures, all set to Ravel’s famous music in Bolero.
After their cameo appearance, they left the rest of the dancing to the community members who joined together for a large-scale line dance that caused the audience to clap along. Texas motifs like a lasso, starry backdrop, state flags, footballs, and even a real longhorn paraded around the stage. The highlight of the collaboration was when Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklórico entered the stage in beautiful, bright colored dresses, stepping and twirling to the roars of the crowd. Ending in a large freestyle dance party, cast and community members poured onto the stage from the audience waving American flags, popping confetti, and dropping balloons from the balcony; prompting a standing ovation from the crowd. This celebration of their community and their state will remain in the hearts of both participants and audience members for years to come.