LARRY KEIGWIN is a native New Yorker and choreographer who has danced his way from the Metropolitan Opera to downtown clubs to Broadway and back. He founded KEIGWIN + COMPANY in 2003 and as Artistic Director, has led the company to perform at theaters and dance festivals around the world. Since the company’s premiere performance at Joyce Soho in 2003, Keigwin has created dozens of dances for company’s such as Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, Royal new Zealand Ballet, The Martha Graham Dance Company, New York Choreographic Institute, The Juilliard School and many others. His work in musical theatre includes choreography for the 2011 production of “Tales of the City” at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and the off-Broadway production of “Rent,” for which he received the 2011 Joe A. Callaway Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation. In 2013, Keigwin choreographed the Broadway musical “If/Then,” starring Idina Menzel.
We sat down with Larry Keigwin to discuss his background, body of work, and the specific goals he’s bringing with him to Broadway Dance Lab.
BDL: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get started in the dance world?
LK: I was the gotta dance kid. I was always moving. My earliest dance memory is dancing on my front lawn with abandon, performing choreographed routines for any passing cars. Fast-forward ten years later to high school, I became obsessed with the “Club MTV,” a dance show on the channel during the time when it used to play music videos. When I heard they were holding auditions, I took the LIRR, auditioned and got that gig, my first paying dance job! Shortly after that, I made my stage debut during a high school production of My Fair Lady. When I landed flat on my back during an unfortunate, overly-eager hitch kick, it was clear I needed to start training. I ended up attending Hofstra University, danced for several modern dance companies, as well as on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera and now I am a choreographer.
BDL: That brings me to my next question, what was the transition from performer to dancer like?
LK: It was actually rather seamless, with a natural progression. I was working for a choreographer who encouraged me to create my own work and I did. When I began sharing my work, I was surprised by how many people came out to support me. It was the support from others that gave me the confidence to keep creating. I would say it was also an overlap, I continue to dance while also choreographing.
BDL: What skill sets do you feel are necessary to be a successful choreographer?
LK: Observant, playful, flexible, patient, musical, organized, and curious.
BDL: You obviously have extensive experience in the world of concert dance. But you’ve also done some crossover work in the world of commercial theatre. What are some of the differences you find working in those two fields?
LK: I think one of the things that changes is the story. Concert dance can be very abstract, while creating for the theatre usually involves a story line. The focus becomes the character and their journey. Regardless, I like to keep my process the same. The dancers are the inspiration and the music drives me. I choreograph because it brings me closer to dance and therefore closer to our community. I’ve always enjoyed putting things together. A puzzle. I often give the analogy of being a dress maker. The dancers are creating the fabric, the color and the texture. It’s my job to edit and help it all come together.
BDL: What interested you in working with Broadway Dance Lab?
LK: I am currently very interested in seeing how I can build a dance narrative using my abstract process, while featuring the fierceness of theatrical dancers. I am ready to tell a story through dance, a story that is about the dancers.
BDL: What specific goals are you bringing with you for your BDL residency?
LK: I am looking forward to creating a dance about the inner lives of the dancers told through the framework of a costume quick change.