If you've ever seen Larry Keigwin's work, you probably guessed that he's a fun guy. His choreography is cheeky and humorous; unexpected and electrifying. And though his aesthetic is decidedly contemporary, there's a touch of that classic modern dance style that makes his partnerships with troupes like Paul Taylor Dance Company and Martha Graham Dance Company so fitting.
His musical taste is pretty similar: eclectic feel-good bops from the contemporary (Justin Bieber) to the classic (Dionne Warwick.) He made us a playlist of the songs that make him move, whether in the studio or in his bedroom:
Again and again, dance teaches me that when the filters fall away between people—when the boundaries of geography, religion and politics soften—the beginning and end of our relationships is always human.
In March, I traveled with Keigwin + Company to Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia and Tunisia, on a tour sponsored by the US State Department and facilitated by DanceMotion USA/Brooklyn Academy of Music. Our mission was cultural diplomacy: Simply, to share ourselves with diverse communities, to promote common understanding and friendships.
Our last stop was Tunisia. Until that point, we had mostly been learning varieties of traditional African dance, and sharing American modern dance. But Tunisia was different. The dancers already had a solid grasp of contemporary movement invention. Though we didn't speak the same language, we could make movement vocabulary with surprising ease. Everything about our backgrounds was different, but there was this special intersection through dance that seemed to present an open door to collaboration.
Can you remember that instant when you landed on another continent and suddenly everything was foreign? My first impression? Holy Shit it is Hot (the kind of heat that fogs up your retina)! The sights, the sounds, the light, the scent (think diesel cars and BO) and the lifestyle all seem to be of another world. But it also doesn't take long to realize that lifestyle really doesn't matter very much, that we are all a part of the human community regardless if you have a roof over your head or shoes on your feet, we all have the same needs—to love and to dance.
And dance we do. We are on a mission to dance—to dance hard, to teach, to learn, to share, to exchange our worlds and we have endless hash-tags to prove it—#dancediplomacy, #culturalexchange, #DMUSA, #KCoDMUSA.
Keigwin + Company is doing a four-week long residency in Africa this month, performing, teaching, leading workshops and dancing together with fellow artists from another continent. It's a cross-cultural exchange set up by DanceMotion USASM, a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department, produced by the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
One of three contemporary companies chosen for the sixth year of the initiative, K + C started in Cote d'Ivoire, is currently in Ethiopia, and will soon make its way to Tunisia. They shared some of the amazing footage taken on their first stop with Dance Magazine. Take a peek, and follow the company's upcoming adventures on Storify.
Keigwin + Company’s summer intensive includes composition. Whitney Browne, Courtesy Keigwin + Company
Small companies jump on the summer intensive bandwagon.
Large ballet and modern dance companies have long used summer programs to help fund their seasons and find fresh talent. Now, it seems choreographers and directors of small contemporary troupes—such as Danielle Agami and Alexandra Beller—are catching on, too, establishing intensives that fuel the creative process within their own companies, create teaching opportunities for themselves and their dancers, and foster the kind of networking smaller troupes rely on. It doesn’t hurt that the extra income also raises the bottom line.
This summer, New York City–based Keigwin + Company will hold its fifth weeklong intensive. Dancers take company class, learn repertoire and further develop essential skills like partnering and composition. Up to 75 participants attend, admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, and are divided among three studios at The Juilliard School. “Sometimes people think of these intensives as an audition on just one end,” says artistic director Larry Keigwin, “but it is also a place for the dancer to audition the company climate and the choreographer.” And it’s a good way for student dancers and Keigwin’s company members, many of whom choreograph on the side, to connect. Keigwin is also seeing the financial benefits of having education as an added revenue stream. (The workshop fee is $500 per dancer.) The program has generated enough interest for Keigwin to add a more intimate winter intensive for 25 dancers and shorter workshops in the fall and spring.
This summer, BODYTRAFFIC, an L.A.-based repertory company under the direction of Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, is hosting a monthlong workshop for dancers and choreographers. The 28 dancers take technique, improvisation and repertory classes with choreographers in a variety of styles. This summer’s includes Barak Marshall, Gregory Dolbashian and Joshua L. Peugh, among others. The program has studio showings that directors of local companies are invited to attend. “It is a great way for us to get to know choreographers that interest us and witness their process,” says Barbeito. Though hosting foreign choreographers, offering more than $10,000 in scholarships and limiting the number of participating dancers has made the program less lucrative, the networking benefits are worth the expense. (Tuition for the full month is $2,650.) “Right now we are not in a place to have apprentices or cultivate dancers,” says Barbeito, “but we are making connections with dancers that, after they have another job or two, might be a good fit for us. And the showings have helped young artists find jobs with other local companies, such as Maurya Kerr’s tinypistol.”
While neither company has yet to hire a full-time dancer from one of its summer programs, both Keigwin and Barbeito believe in the value, both for themselves and for contemporary dancers, of adding education into their organizations. “I don’t get the opportunity to teach regularly,” says Keigwin, “and it seems the best way for dancers to interface with directors is to meet in the classroom.”