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Donald Rosenberg  |  October 05, 2010

Keigwin company and Akron-area residents have a blast in "Bolero Akron"

A tire rolls across the stage. Then another. Then a few dozen more. So begins "Bolero Akron," the gleeful dance piece that received its world premiere by Keigwin + Company and a crowd of Akron-area residents Saturday at E.J. Thomas Hall.

The work was part of the New York troupe's program opening DanceCleveland's new season. Presented with Thomas Hall and the University of Akron, the evening introduced a company that floats, skips and vibrates on wings of artistic director Larry Keigwin's fluent and witty choreography.

Keigwin and company member Nicole Wolcott have staged "Bolero" celebrations to the hypnotic Ravel score in several American cities. Each version is geared to the specific community, which, in Akron's case, meant references to tires, blimps and even an Amazonian drag queen (Trixie Morgan).

"Bolero Akron" unfolded to Ravel's insistent rhythm and theme like an uproarious block party. Dressed in hip variations of red, the local residents and Keigwin dancers made a merry parade of their various duties.

Little ones, teens and mature participants alike marched through the tires as if going through exercises at psychedelic boot camp. As the music increased in volume and tension, the cast became bikers, sports fans or, in the big finale, flag wavers at the Roller Derby.


Keigwin + Company

The coup de theatre was the arrival of Trixie Morgan (aka Gary Grether) atop an enormous portable ladder. The moment won't give Dolly a run for her money at the Harmonia Gardens, but it did add another giddy layer to this lark of a creation.

The 60 or so local residents who volunteered for "Bolero Akron" aren't likely to forget the experience. They looked thoroughly drilled in the dizzying material, as if they'd been practicing for months, instead of the two weeks they rehearsed the piece.

Earlier in the program, the Keigwin dancers performed works by their artistic director that revealed a buoyant, whimsical and inventive choreographic voice. "Air" and "Wind" send the company through an array of breezy metaphoric episodes.

We meet a group of air stewards and stewardesses dancing goofy patterns with one another and luggage to Jim Webb's "Up, Up and Away." Keigwin and Matthew Baker are light-hearted protagonists cavorting to a Perry Como favorite, "Catch a Falling Star," while the cast engages in soaring lifts and intricate steps to music by Philip Glass in "Wind."

Keigwin's "Love Songs" uses classics by Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone to portray three couples in assorted states of emotional upheaval and euphoria. The funniest sequences find Liz Riga as a torrid dominatrix dancing to the frenzied hilt with Baker. Keigwin, Wolcott, Kristina Hanna and Aaron Carr were the other charismatic lovers.

Quirky rituals and angular arm patterns form the crux of "Triptych," a high-energy work set to Jonathan Melville Pratt's pulsating score that shows Keigwin's ability to take his marvelous troupe through arresting dance images minus a narrative.

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