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Limon Dance Company

A newbie's view of Limon

by Mary Ellen Hunt

January 26, 2004 -- Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco

The 57-year old Limon Dance Company brought a historical whiff to an appreciative audience at the Cowell Theater in San Francisco with a program of works spanning some 37 years that ranged from classics such as "Psalm" and "The Unsung" to the more recent "Phantasy Quintet."

I have to say right up front that I don't have a long experience of Limon-watching to draw upon. It's not at all that I dislike the company -- it's only that, for whatever reason, I haven't gotten to see them much. So it is with a bit of hemming and hawing that I note that while the Cowell performance had its interesting moments, it didn't make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, so to speak.

Nevertheless, clearly the company has some talented performers who bring a sense of commitment to the repertoire

In Jose Limon's 1970 work, "The Unsung" -- performed by Roel Seeber, Charles Scott, Francisco Ruvalcaba, Raphael Boumaila, Robert Regala, and Jonathan Riedel -- the six men took an appropriately ritualistic pacing for this silent meditation. Their very individual movement qualities kept them from achieving any kind of absolute consonance. But as each dancer took his solo, those quirks became sources of interest. The bear-like Riedel, for instance, dancing in the final solo, moved with an unexpected and compelling delicacy.

"Angelitos Negros," a piece by Donald McKayle which received its Bay Area premiere during this run, was not quite as engaging. The solo, performed by Roxane D'Orleans Juste, had a flamenco-inspired air, with its teal-trimmed white skirt and shawl, but I couldn't help feeling that there was a lack of emotional force that gave it a slightly pedestrian air.

Brenna Monroe-Cook, was by contrast anything but a pedestrian mover. In Adam Hoagland's "Phantasy Quintet" she caught the eye with a serious and yet sexy quality, cutting easily through space in both her solo work and paired with an elegant Francisco Ruvalcaba. Among the other dancers, Ryoko Kudo and Kristen Foote also stood out for the breadth of their attack, and Foote in particular had a pleasantly engaging stage persona that rubbed off on her role as one of the Expiatory Figures in Limon's "Psalm," which closed the program.

"Psalm" was perhaps the most affecting of all the works on the bill. With its dissonant cacophonous backdrop of sound and the asymmetrical patterning, it seems driven along by the very fact of being out of balance.

As the Penitente, Robert Regala had a certain inner strength and powerful jumps; however, it was surprisingly hard to pick him out of the crowd. Nevertheless, perhaps the work is more about the ritual of community than about any one individual, and by that measure, the Limon Dance Company certainly achieved a kind of potency with their performance.

Edited by Jeff.

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