London-born Keely Garfield, whose performances at Playhouse 91 open the annual 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Project next Thursday, is seven months pregnant with her second child. In the exasperating way of dancers, she looks just as she always does, lean and lithe, except for this volleyball pushing out the front of her long black jacket. Her new work, My Sister Was a Refugee, continues a series of pieces based on her British family. The others, My Mother Was a Four-Alarm Fire and My Father Was a Spanish Captain, led the charge in transforming her from a choreographer with a reputation for being funny to one who projects a full range of emotions. Her longtime collaborator, Rachel Lynch-John, plays the sister in Refugee, for which Philip Johnston provides the music; other dancers are Karl Anderson, Tom O’Connor, and Lisa Townsend.
Also in the cast is the enormous Larry Goldhuber, playing many family members and others. “We’re both inhabiting these larger bodies,” says Garfield. “[The piece] is about the anticipation of the birth, about sex, about the baby. He’s what it might be, the seed. Because of the pregnancy I’ve had to step outside the work more than I usually do, playing more the coach or director. It’s enabled me to get better performances from the other dancers, to figure out how to communicate.”
Completing her bill are the new Rub Me the Wrong Way, which has overtones of Fellini, and Past Caring, about close relationships among aging couples. Garfield says she’s finished the cycle of dances about her kin, with no plans to similarly represent her husband, a businessman, or her children. But were she to succumb to the impulse to make such a piece, what would she call it?
“It would have to be My Husband Is a Prince Among Men.”