I wasn’t expecting to be deeply moved by Keigwin + Company. Entertained, yes. Impressed, sure. Excited and jazzed, you bet. But in the midst of Keigwin’s blinding array of dance influences, club culture, pop culture, and glittering effects is a choreographer who truly believes that movement can call out to you and share … a heartbeat.
There’s a moment near the end of Bird Watching, the third piece on the program the company is presenting in Tulsa this weekend, when all nine dancers stand in one of the piece’s many familiar yet surprising flocking formations, and for what seems like a long time they simply pump their outstretched arms, sometimes leaning, sometimes gently turning.
It’s the heart-swelling thrill of watching a flock of big birds push through the air. Coming as it does at the close of a dance that is so brimming with careful observation, with the delight of the dancers as they inhabit their avian bodies, and with the right order of things (an order that often eludes rationality), this moment sang out with a thrum of truth which resonated with me the way certain works by Paul Taylor, George Balanchine, and Mark Morris have resonated.
There are similar moments in all the pieces K+C performed here. Ashley Browne’s explosive white-hot club-dance break-out in Megalopolis. The shuddering semaphores Emily Schoen and Aaron Carr create at the crescendo of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” in Love Songs. The conclusion of Runaway, where an increasing sense of terror sets in as the men and women seem to sink and harden into the roles set out for them (mannequin, broker, model, techno-bot … the many 21st-century parts that Fritz Masten’s genius costumes, Ashley Hanson’s trashed-out bouffant wigs, Clifton Taylor’s lighting, and Keigwin’s brilliant choreography suggest).
Keigwin’s dancers are so subtle and natural in what is sometimes such aggressively complex choreography that you don’t even see these moments when they begin to happen. They emerge with terrific acceleration and then hover as if in slow motion so you can breathe them in. The pieces as a whole, with their love of gesture and repetition and their precise timing among shifting groups, have a beautiful structure that prepares the mind to receive the deepest level of what they communicate.
These dancers are not creatures of the studio; it’s obvious that, as Keigwin told me, “they have their finger on the pulse” — that they’re real-world people who dance for fun. His team knows that dance is not fundamentally an elite art form. They know that, deep down, it’s a variety of ecstatic play that gets you into yourself and gets you out of yourself and gets you together with the selves of other people. Browne, Carr, Matthew Baker, Kristina Hanna, and Jaclyn Walsh were standouts, though I was hungry to see every last one of them again and again.
Keigwin + Company performs again Saturday night, 8 pm, at the Williams Theater at the PAC. Keep an eye out in January for a local performance of Keigwin’s Caffeinated, which Hanna set on student dancers at the University of Tulsa last week. And kudos to Choregus Productions for continuing to bring such fresh, exhilarating dance to Tulsa.