Club Kids Don’t Cry: A New Work by Keigwin + Company

The first generation of American concert choreographers distanced themselves from the dance club and fashion world. They wanted to elevate dance, not point out its relationship to entertainment and consumerism. Not Larry Keigwin, who came of age in the late 1980s. The New York-born choreographer’s world premiere of Exit at The Joyce Theater (March 8-13) takes the underground club world, with all its narcissism, nihilism and fashion-ism as its subject matter. Known for his embrace of popular culture (working with The Radio City Rockettes and more recently for New York Fashion Week), Keigwin’s evening-length work for his seven-member pickup troupe is a significant departure. It’s serious. And that is its greatest weakness. Take seriously preening and posing clubbers? Come on. Dancer Liz Riga was sporting retro-inspired makeup reminiscent of the rock band Kiss.

Friend and fellow dance critic Marina Harss commented that Exit, seen on March 9, isn’t dark enough. “They look like such good kids,” she said. Keigwin probably hoped to create a self-destructive vision of club culture, choreographing his athletic performers to repeatedly fall to the floor and pulverize each other. But because these dancers always sauntered to and slithered against a black wall (designed by Dane Laffrey), a message of safety first (exhibitionism second) reigned. The desire to create danger, even with Burke Wilmore’s Blade Runner style lighting, didn’t develop. So, Exit bordered between the mundane and the simulacrum silly. When Aaron Carr appeared in a white mesh top, a black thong, and silver stilettos, lip synching Sammy Davis Jr.’s rendition of the 1967 song I’ve Got to be Me, he looked less like a transvestite and more like a teenager strutting for his pals in the safety of his dorm room. Carr, a succinct and luscious mover, is just too clean cut looking to convincingly play the outsider.

The composer Jerome Begin—who performed on a keyboard synthesizer and weaved layers of beats and sounds like a wizard at his cauldron—was the most believable member of the crew. Playing below and stage right of the dancers, Begin did exactly what DJs are revered for: Keeping the club mood subtly changing and increasing in intensity. Also of note were the final moments of Exit, when Keigwin’s choreography echoed Begin’s ricocheting sound riffs. At this moment, Carr’s tossing spiraling limbs influenced the next dancer’s movements, and then the next. Like a wave of energy, the dancers became united as they cascaded toward the wings to their final exit. It was a beautiful moment. Hopefully, Keigwin will have the opportunity to develop more transcendence in Exit as it tours the country in the coming year. Because Keigwin isn’t just a 1980s club kid. Like most interesting artists, he’s moving forward.



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