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Jack Anderson

Keigwin's Finger Food

Keigwin + Company: "Portraits"
Dance New Amsterdam, 280 Broadway, Lower Manhattan
Closed Nov. 12, 2006
Information: www.dnadance.org
Reviewed by Jack Anderson Nov. 12, 2006

Larry Keigwin called his program of brief dances "Portraits," an appropriate title for these sharply-drawn sketches. His portraits also provided choreographic finger food, for finger motions dominated much of the evening.

Keigwin's "Finger Solo" for himself began with him standing slumped in a slightly rumpled suit, raising his hands above his head and, to music of Satie, letting his index fingers engage in gestural discourse, sometimes seeming to agree, sometimes arguing and going separate ways. Pulling off his suit, he revealed what looked like a science-fiction warrior costume beneath it, whereupon he, Julian Barnett, Liz Riga, Ying-Ying Shiau and Nicole Wolcott, clad in similar warrior outfits by Elizabeth Payne, hopped assertively through "Comic Strip," to the third movement of Saint-Saëns's Third Symphony. They clenched their fists and flexed their muscles like antagonists in a preposterous sci-fi cartoon. Yet Keigwin also did finger wiggling akin to that in his solo.

Michael Blake, Keith Sabado, and Valda Setterfield, three guest dancers, twiddled their fingers and shook their wrists to more music by Satie in "Finger Suite," in which Setterfield sometimes resembled an imperious monarch. When she kept positioning the men in pose after pose, she might have been a fashion designer arranging her models. At other times, the men's fingers appeared to duel and all three performers hammered at the air with their fingers like journalists frantically trying to meet deadlines by pounding their typewriters with hunt-and-peck speed.

"Female Portraits," choreographed by Keigwin with his cast, found Shiau quivering her fingers in agitation to Cyndi Lauper; Wolcott, propelled by an electric fan, sweeping across the floor to Stevie Nicks, and Riga enticingly fingering her skirt to Annie Lenox.
Wolcott also fluttered with Barnett and Keigwin in "Urban Birds," collaboratively choreographed by Keigwin, Wolcott, and Alexander Gish to pieces by Yann Tiersen.

Company dancers shared choreographic responsibilities with Keigwin for "Love Songs," an ingenious series of duets. Although Shiau and Patrick Ferreri danced side by side to Neil Diamond without touching, they nevertheless seemed in harmony. In a torrid duet to Aretha Franklin, Riga and Barnett pointed fingers at each other; then Riga beckoned to him with a finger, he crawled to her, and she picked him up. Wolcott and Keigwin kept grasping each other to Nina Simone until Wolcott abruptly departed.

That seemed the work's conclusion. But, no, each couple returned for other duets to the same vocalists that served both as encores and as romantic progress reports. Shiau and Ferreri played footsie and let their fingers converse. Riga seemed Barnett's boss. And Keigwin lifted Wolcott until she again ran off, this time with him in pursuit.

Keigwin always let his dancers' fingers do lots of choreographic walking and talking. But he made the rest of their bodies equally expressive, and fun to watch, as well.

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