We sat down with A.I.M company member Keerati Jinakunwiphat to learn more about her new work Big Rings, a celebratory ode to the athleticism and comradery of her fellow dancers. Keerati, who joined A.I.M as a swing in 2016 and became a full time company member in 2018, is the first of her A.I.M colleagues to debut a piece on the company. Big Rings pays homage to her Chicago roots, while highlighting the individuality of her fellow company members and melding her unique style with A.I.M’s movement vocabularies.
Your new work Big Rings, named after Drake’s popular song about his entourage and success, centers on “teamwork, high physicality” (Dance Magazine). How did you set the tone at the beginning of rehearsals?
To start, the way I like to create movement is through intertwining. I like having my dancers pull and grab, looking around, being hyperaware-I feel like that already creates that energy of having to work as a team.
How was your experience choreographing on your fellow A.I.M dancers?
Definitely amazing. I think my fellow dancers are superheroes and it was very important to me, in creating this piece, to display them in the way I see them—with all the playfulness and silliness and all.
Can you talk a bit more about your music choices?
My music collaborator Zach Berns knew the kind of feel I was going for-the whole sports anthem feel. There are a lot of Chicago references in the piece. He was able to use the Chicago Bulls theme song. Chance the Rapper is just someone I love as a person; I love the kind of music he makes. He sends such a positive message and does a lot for the community of Chicago. I put in ‘Space Jam’ as the sort of hype anthem, also a subtle reference for people who grew up with the movie, like myself. The classical track, ‘Swan,’ is such a well-known track in the dance world, so I used it ironically in a way. Seeing sports movement to it, you kinda get something new, and get to hear and see the movement differently.
What were your ideas behind the costumes?
I knew for the first half that I wanted team sweats and stuff. Since it’s introductory, I wanted the dancers’ names to be visible across their backs, so the audience could put a name to a face. For the second half, I just wanted everything to be fun and bright and colorful, and I wanted them to look individual but still part of the team. I had these jerseys that were actually gifts, so that’s why they have hidden nicknames on the back. I ended up using them in the piece!
Do you seek feedback during your choreographic process?
I’m lucky enough to have a good relationship with a college mentor of mine, Doug Varone, and Kyle is super generous with giving me feedback and still letting me do my own thing. I like getting feedback when I have a sort of structure or skeleton, a beginning-middle-end. I also ask female choreographers and dancers I’ve worked with, a lot of friends form school and dance life, so I’m lucky to feel supported all around.
When you’re not working, how do you like to reset?
I think it’s important to take myself away from dance when I can –paint, travel, read a book, go to the park, have time to myself.
How was your experience seeing your choreographic debut at The Joyce?
Crazy, overwhelming, I feel like choreographer nerves are different from dancing nerves. I call them my ‘mom nerves.’ I was very proud to watch them onstage, even from the very beginning, when they’re just walking out, I get excited.
How would you describe the piece in three words?
A championship team!
Listen in to Keerati’s pump up playlist featuring some of her pre-show jams and inspirations for Big Rings on our artist curated playlist series, Joyce Listens!