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The Limón Dance Company

Profoundly Human

by Elizabeth McPherson

November 21, 2006 -- Joyce Theatre, New York City

The Limón Dance Company is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The series of performances running from November 14-26, 2006 at The Joyce Theatre in New York City celebrate the company and its founders with revivals of Doris Humphrey and José Limón’s choreographic works. Also included in the series of performances is a newly commissioned dance by Lar Lubovitch titled "Recordare".

I attended the Limón Dance Company performance on Tuesday evening, November 21. Program B: Honoring Our Founders began with “A Choreographic Offering”, choreographed in 1964 by Limón is a tribute to his mentor Doris Humphrey. The choreography contains “quotes” from many of Humphrey’s greatest works, including Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor and New Dance. The beginning of “A Choreographic Offering” was beautifully danced, but seemed to lack spark and a sense of risk on the performers’ parts. All of the sudden with the Quintet, however, the stage became electric with energy. The dancers feet seemed to fly across the floor. It was performed by Elian de Soto, Bradley Shelver, Roel Seeber, Kathryn Alter, and Katie Diamond who embraced the musicality and allegro quality of this section. The rest of the dance continued in this vein, breaking out of the carefulness of the first three sections.

Based on the poem by Federico Garcia Lorca, the second dance, Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, was choreographed by Humphrey in 1946. It tells the story of a bullfighter’s death. I had never seen Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias before and was wonderfully surprised and intrigued by the minimalism of the choreography. Every move and expression furthered the story, without one superfluous gesture. Roxanne D’Orléans Juste and Ryoko Kudo spoke the text with clarity and controlled emotional intensity. Their characters were expertly portrayed.

Francisco Ruvalcaba played Ignacio, the bullfighter. I recall seeing him dance when he was a Juilliard student. It was a thrill for me to realize that I am old enough to have watched a dancer younger than myself mature! And mature he has. He had a visceral quality of pure animal intensity that was riveting.

The final dance on the program was The Moor’s Pavane, choreographed by Limón in 1949. The dance tells an encapsulated story of Othello with four dancers:  Raphäel Boumaïla playing the The Moor; Brenna Monroe-Cook playing The Moor’s Wife: Roel Seeber playing His Friend: and Ryoko Kudo playing His Friend’s Wife. The characters were so fully realized that the story could have been conveyed by their facial expressions alone: The Moor’s uncertainty, The Moor’s Wife’s purity, His Friend’s treachery, and His Friend Wife’s reluctant complicity. Even though one could guess how the dance would end, the conclusion arrived with breathtaking pain and horror.

Because two of the three dances performed in this program involved death and the wrenching human emotions that precede and follow a death, the evening ended on a somewhat somber note. What a wonderful addition some of the Charles Weidman dances, particularly the humorous ones, would be to the quite serious repertory. Limón once wrote, “We are never more profoundly human than when we dance.” Our human emotions have a deep range. Presenting lighter dances might make the intensity of the more somber ones even more meaningful.

Under Carla Maxwell’s direction, the Limón Dance Company is preserving the modernists tradition in contemporary dance and sharing it with us. As post-modernism created a revolution in modern dance with post-post modern dance following, or downtown dance, and so on and so forth, the Limón Dance Company stood, bucking the trends, preserving a tradition, our dance history. But these are no museum pieces. The company performs its repertory both new and old with ecstatic passion for living and dancing.

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