Larry Keigwin and his New York-based company, in residence at the Lobero Theatre for the past month, may have been enjoying their time in Santa Barbara, but they certainly were doing more than lounging on the beach and strolling State Street.
Two new works for the company were created on the Lobero stage during this, their second residency for DANCEworks, as well as a four-minute video featuring community members frolicking in notable Santa Barbara locations such as the Dolphin Fountain, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and the Lobero. The video was posted to YouTube and also opens the show this weekend. Keigwin made a memorable breakthrough with the community involvement component of DANCEworks during his first residency in 2010, when he created Bolero Santa Barbara using a whole slew of local folks performing live.
This weekend is the culmination of the current residency, an evening of fresh and innovative dance at the Lobero. From the looks of the existing repertory pieces they share here, Keigwin + Co are not spending a lot of time back home in New York sitting on their duffs either.
“Twelve Chairs” has each dancer onstage with a chair, often moving in unison, and touches on themes of fitting in vs. breaking free, with delightful moments of individuality shining through, the chaos within the conformity.
“Boys” is a quartet of male dancers in gray flannel short pants and white shirts, set to a suite of Eartha Kitt songs. Strong, fluid, playful and tender, they weave together elements of lyrical dance, capoeira and gymnastics with hints of the Three Stooges and a timeless wonder. Inventive lifts and pairings result in gravity-defying moments. This is truly a joy to see.
A new work created as a companion piece, “Girls” is a trio of women set to Frank Sinatra songs. In gray flannels as well, their movements are simpler and less intertwined than the boys’, but the piece incorporates floor-to-ceiling rain curtains, strips of glittering mylar that catch the light spectacularly and provide a fun element for the dancers to interact with. Starting out behind one, their faces and arms appear, seemingly disembodied. When those same movements are repeated later on, full bodies in view, it is a satisfying callback for the viewer.
The other new work presented is “Seven.” With an easy, casual vibe, the seven dancers move abstractly but with a unifying spirit and flow, like currents in the ocean. Highlighting the pedestrian feel are city street noises behind the gentle acoustic guitar music that opens and closes the piece.
Two pieces commissioned by the Juilliard School round out the program, and show off the versatility, originality and dynamism embodied in this company. “Runaway,” with a predatory, driving intensity, has the dancers in nearly constant motion, often walking quickly across the stage as if on a conveyor belt, weaving among one another in complex patterns. The aesthetic is Mad Men meets Barbarella, with slim suits, minidresses and wildly pouffed hairdos. Midway through, the dancers strip down to various stages of undress and continue their frenzied motion, expanding the performance space to include the aisles of the theater.
“Megalopolis” is the finale of the evening, and contains much the same intense energy, but is a bit lighter, more whimsical. The costuming evokes Buck Rogers, with kitschy futuristic unitards in black and silver and the music cuts back and forth between two very different styles, providing delightful contrast. The dancers really get their chances to stand out here with solo moments where their individuality, style and sheer joy of movement shine like beacons.
Tonight is the last opportunity to see this alchemy that occurs when Keigwin + Co meet our fair city. Don’t miss out on the magic.
The performance begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Lobero, 33 E. Canon Perdido. Click here to purchase tickets.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.