Chris Elam/Misnomer Dance Theater and Keigwin + Company
New York University Skirball Center
April 12 and 14, 2007
Reviewed by Emily Macel
What better way is there to draw interest in modern dance from a young crowd than by a combined concert with two young, cool New York City choreographers and bill the show as a Dance Party? That’s exactly what Chris Elam and Larry Keigwin—both former Dance Magazine “25 to Watch’s”—did. They teamed up and presented two nights of their quirky dancing, and an onstage dance party (complete with DJ) after the show.
Always one to push the body’s limits in terms of flexibility and contortionism, Elam began the night with Cast-Iron Crutches (1997). He wrapped himself into a non-human-like form and performed a nearly nude solo with just a softly lit backdrop and his shadow. The short but sweet dance placed Elam somewhere between an egg and a bird, moving as if his long, rubbery limbs were not fully formed.
Future Perfect was a beautifully peculiar 45-minute long world premiere. The scene is set with a hanging fluorescent soccer ball that could be a sun, the moon, or some sort of alien spaceship. The movements were mesmerizing: a dancer would be pulled across the floor with heavy limbs; bodies would meld together like one, then instantly become three separate figures; or heads would be nestled into the nooks of armpits or stomachs of others. These motifs seemed new and fresh each time around. And the music that accompanied the piece was as sporadic as the dancing. From orchestrated scores by The Langley School’s Music Project, to a chorus of children singing the Beach Boy’s God Only Knows, as weird of a mixture as it was, it never seemed out of place.
Elam’s company, Misnomer Dance Theater, never ceases to impress with their connectivity and subtle-to-intense emotional interactions. It’s the abruptness of the movements—a dancer will stand completely still for moments, then all of the sudden throw herself onto the back of another dancer—that make Elam’s choreography so intense. It’s strangely comfortable to watch, as if you are having a pleasant, but non-linear, bizarre dream. Just as the cast of five seems to fall into slumber themselves, Elam emerges through a smoke screen to Elton John’s Rocket Man. And it’s funny. Really funny.
The crowd was anxious to see Keigwin’s work during the second half of the show—mainly because their friends were performing. His first piece, Caffeinated, was a work commissioned by NYU’s dance department and featured Tisch dancers in the highly charged dance, performed to a relentlessly energetic Philip Glass score. Natural Selection didn’t let up on the intense, unyielding music (Michael Gordon’s Weather) and Keigwin’s company was literally dancing on the walls. Ying-Ying Shiau sprinted upstage and with the assistance of two other dancers ran up the wall then across the bricks at the rear of the stage. And the finale? Another stab at Ravel’s famed score in the form of a New York City street scene. Bolero NYC included more than 50 performers. The crowd was as varied as the “average” New Yorker: A very tall man wearing only a tie and Speedos, a gaggle of giggling girls carrying balloons, a high-fashion woman and her tiny toy-sized pup, and a woman and her baby—who stole the show when at one point all the dancers quickly exited the stage and the toddler stood on stage all alone staring into the audience.