Before starting a piece, Larry Keigwin* has in mind some idea or theme to explore, but he also says of how he works: “I like to go in with a very blank canvas. I’m searching for what makes the dancers tick. I give them some general material, warming up the body, playing.
“Then I go on to shaping it.”
He says the process with Whim W’Him was very fast, generating movement and technique and finding out about the performers. Larry finished most of the choreography in the first studio week.
Around then, he wrote up a little outline of his ideas and the process so far:
LINE DANCE (working title)
The juxtaposition of a dance inspired by abstract lines and of the pop-cultural reference to a line dance, something social and ritualistic.
Idea: Continuing my investigation in Juxtapositions: Formalism vs. Pop, Abstract vs. Narrative, Minimalism vs. Maximalist.
Inspiration: I began this creative process like I do most, wanting to excavate the personalities of the dancers. It became clear quickly that these seven dancers were not only incredibly talented with wonderful facility but that they were also interesting creative collaborators. At first I thought I might make a dance portrait of these individuals but that morphed into “A study on minimalist abstract design” and now I am trying to figure out how to add some pop, some glitter and gloss to that abstract design. I am definitely inspired by contemporary art and in this case the simplicity of a line. I am thinking about Donald Judd’s steel boxes
or Agnes Martin white paintings.
Creating minimalism requires a lot of restraint and refinement which is not always easy for me so I am also looking to add a pop-art sensibility into the mix, a glassy Jeff Koon’s sculpture type of pop.
Music: Philip Glass and a Pop song I have yet to discover.
Costumes: Individual athletic looks but uniform in all white (with maybe some silver stripping)
Design: Would love a white floor, no set but the backstage revealed, simple lighting but maybe a surprise pop of color.
At that point, a couple of weeks ago and with 4 rehearsals still to go, Larry told me, “I could use them to refine this—or I might make a whole new dance, with the Philip Glass piece Mad Rush, using the same vocabulary, but differently put together, with a modern twist—then put them back to back.”
Yesterday, I got back in touch with him about where the piece has gone in the interim. Here’s his update:
“The dance I made on Whim Whim is basically complete (perhaps a few minor tweaks to make during technical rehearsal but otherwise done).
The dance is now Titled “LINE DANCE (Part 1 and 2).”
Part one is to Philip Glass, Mad Rush, which is 14mins long.
Part two is set to Harlem Shake by Baauer and that is 3mins long.
Part 1 is a minimalist modern dance using “a line” as a structural device
Part 2 is a pop dance similar to a line dance you might dance at a wedding only with modern dance vocabulary.
Part 1 is formal while Part 2 is pop.”
I’m greatly looking forward to my return to Seattle and th chance to see this piece, not just in still photo or video or verbal form, but in the flesh!
*Larry Keigwin,’s latest creation will premiere as part of Whim W’Him‘s SENSATION program—January 20-28, 2017, CORNISH PLAYHOUSE AT SEATTLE CENTER—along with works by new Penny Saunders and company artistic director Olivier Wevers.
Photo credit: Bamberg Fine Art Photography