The company's less predictable pieces featured sly wit, innovative choreography and sensual playfulness.
The first half of Keigwin + Company's Twin Cities debut at Minneapolis' Cowles Center Friday night felt predictable. The New York-based dancers showed keen skill, but the pieces were overly faithful to their pop culture touchstones. The more provocative repertory selections came post-intermission, when artistic director Larry Keigwin's subversive wit and innovative choreographic spirit really shone through.
Keigwin has worked in contemporary dance and ballet as well as music, fashion and off-Broadway. This array of influences showed up throughout the evening, starting with "Megalopolis" (2009), a futuristic effort pairing sharp-edged choreography with minimalist composer Steve Reich's repetitive rhythms and M.I.A.'s club-banging beats. The juxtaposition between musical styles jarred at times but the subtle evolution of stylistic shifts in movement made for an effective, if academic, exercise in contrasts.
"Love Songs" (2006) offered another comparative study, this time in couple dynamics. Jaclyn Walsh and Matthew Baker were comically fiery in their interactions while Ashley Browne and Gary Schaufeld had a dreamier connection. Set to songs from Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, the piece wove together humor and reflection, yet came off as too literal in its interpretations.
A preview of "Twelve Chairs" (2012), premiering later this month at the Joyce Theater in New York, evoked thoughts of the many times folding chairs and pedestrian movement show up in dance (works by David Gordon spring to mind). Propelled by driving rhythms in Jonathan Melville Pratt's score, Keigwin used his chairs to focus on the underlying chaos of a seemingly orderly scene, but tighter editing could allow this hard-hitting aspect to overcome the mundane moments.
"Mattress Suite," a collection of four works from 2001 to 2004 (including two made with associate director Nicole Wolcott) was far more sly and surprising in its commentary on the fluid nature of love and sexuality than "Love Songs." As expected, a mattress set the scene for rolling, pouncing, jumping, fighting -- and making up (all in tighty whities). A trio for Aaron Carr, Baker and Schaufeld was particularly winning with its sensual playfulness.
The program closed with "Runaway" (2008), a sardonic riff on catwalk attitude, mod fashion and the almost predatory pursuit of bodily perfection all cued to a strut-worthy score by Pratt. To see the dancers -- particularly the women in their beehive wigs -- attack a pose with blank-faced ferocity was a highlight.
Caroline Palmer writes frequently about dance.