Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another Bolero, Another 10

This appeared on Edhat yesterday as a thank you for the free tickets, but I figured it belonged here, too.

Larry Keigwin + Company, Bolero Santa Barbara

Hands down, hands are crucial to the work Larry Keigwin choreographs, as was amply evident during the four piece performance his troupe (and a wonderful bunch of locals, but more on that in a bit) presented on Friday at the Lobero. Take one repeated bit the company made in the piece "Wind," set to a soaring Philip Glass soundtrack - often while circling, the dancers would bring their arms up from hips, bringing their palms together in front of their faces, as if taking off, as if supplicants in church. On a wing in a prayer literalized, you could say.

But of course I've zoomed in a bit too quickly to give an overall sense of this wonderful, wide-ranging night of movement. As usual (Keigwin has been a frequent visitor to town, thanks to Dianne Vapnek and Summerdance, now DANCEworks), the work was both poignant and playful, as anything involving humans on the move should be. The opening, "Air" (perhaps as in "as light as") had the dancers in natty flight attendant costumes, turning the usual safety instruction pantomime into something clever, all set to the Fifth Dimension singing "Up, Up and Away." (And while it's hard during such a number not to think of Bob Fosse's "Take Off with Us" from All that Jazz, the Keigwin piece stayed nice and far from naughty.) The second movement of "Air," a coy duet danced by Keigwin himself with Matthew Baker, popped clichés of love (even going so far as to include balloons), while still luxuriating in the danceability of a croonerly gem like Perry Como's version of "Catch a Falling Star."

"Triptych" was another piece fascinated with arms and hands, limbs swinging often in a mechanical way, dancers set in lockstep (what's the arm equivalent of lockstep?). At times a line of four or five would cut across the stage, the last dancer briefly breaking out of the routine, only to jump back in before leaving the stage. The piece seemed to tease the tension between being one with the group versus the need for being an individual, the comfort of the many versus the risk of going it solo.

The darkest piece of the night was a preview of "Exit," the work the company has been developing during their Santa Barbara residency. Performed on the bare stage with stark lighting, dancers often were up against the wall itself - a piece about limits, as if to suggest all dance is, since it's always about flesh. Composer Chris Lancaster played his original music on electric cello live, and its occasional grating was cleverly mimicked when one dancer would draw his hand along the wall, fingernails on the performance's chalkboard. It will be fascinating to see where the work-in-progress "Exit" ends up.

The evening ended on a much more joyous note, with "Bolero Santa Barbara," featuring 50 Santa Barbarans of all shapes, ages, and dance ability (plus one local dog Edhat needs to feature soon). Opening with the performers aptly moving from the aisles/audience onto the stage, it reveled in Santa Barbara as 3-D postcard - bathing suits, beach scenes (with surfing on towels across the stage), Trader Joe's bags, bikes, even a few bare bottoms (provided by the professional dancers - New York sassiness invading our poor provincial town). That it was done so lovingly took away any of the possible sting of condescension, and that the performers were clearly having the times of their lives added to the joy. For what is dance, after all, but celebration, and to make that celebration Santa Barbara-specific…well, that can only be a great time.

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