'Glam, pulsating, daunting, exciting," are the words that Larry Keigwin uses to describe his choreography. "I have a theatrical flare in me and I think it just flashes on the stage."
Keigwin+Co. is a troupe that uses color and pop culture to inform the work making its first appearance in the Spoleto Festival, leaving no doubt that entertainment and fine art can overlap. Keigwin, the company's choreographer and artistic director mixes the two with ease, bringing drama, fashion and glamour to the stage.
"There are various events in this year's festival that will be about relatively deep subjects, whether it's suicide in 'Kat'a Kabanova,' or whether it's about redemption in 'El Nino,'" said Nigel Redden, the festival's general director. "I think there also has to be room for fun in the festival." Existential angst surely is worth exploring, he said, "but not all the time."
Keigwin made his Broadway choreographic debut in March with the musical If/Then starring Idina Menzel, who was nominated for a Tony. Keigwin entered the fashion world in 2011, when the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, Anna Wintour, selected him to be the choreographer of the opening for New York City's Fashion Week.
"Oh my God, it was exciting and nerve-wracking," Keigwin said. "I remember being all nervous, only thinking, what am I going to wear?"
His work has been admired for its colorful presentation and entertaining narratives.
"'Runaway' is one of the most exciting works in our repertory," said Keigwin referring to a 2008 work on the current program.
Keigwin sets "Runaway" to a pulsating score. He calls it a pedestrian dance, meaning there is a lot of everyday movement, like walking or strutting.
Born in 1972 in New York City, Keigwin had his first dance gig in "Club MTV," a moment that defined the rest of his career. This led him into projects combining fashion and theater, ultimately resulting in the formation of his contemporary dance company in 2006.
After dancing for MTV, Keigwin graduated from Hofstra University in 1994 with a dance degree. He gravitated toward contemporary dance and choreographed "Mattress Suites" in collaboration with Mark Dendy.
Besides the neon costuming and striking lighting in which he immerses his dancers, the narrative is an important element in his choreography. The pieces typically portray real-life situations like a love story or a scene in a club.
"I create dances without setting them to music," Keigwin said. "For example, there can be a very loose narrative about relationships but it is not directly tied to the music."
The piece "Love Songs," for example, tells a story using music by Aretha Fanklin, Roy Orbison and Nina Simone. Keigwin is bringing five varied works to Spoleto, from a duet to a piece for the full company of 12 dancers.
Alejandra Acuna is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.