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 Post subject: San Jose Dance Festival July 22-24, 1999
PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 1999 8:02 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
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Location: SF Bay Area
San Jose Dance Festival July 22-24, 1999<P>For this 2nd annual San Jose Dance Festival, the featured company was once again the Limón Dance Company, America’s oldest modern dance repertoire company, with prelude performances by Los Lupeños de San José, Diablo Ballet and ODC/San Francisco.<P>The Limón company brought with them three somber pieces, all with dark lighting, to the cozy and modern San Jose Repertory Theater. Originally built to create an intimate space for theatrical productions, the effect this theater had on the somber choreography was to bring a sense of increased eerieness to the dark and moody works.<P>Clearly the most somber but also probably the most familiar work of the night was Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies. It is remarkable that Limón, a modern dance company, has included Dark Elegies in its repertory. It is even more remarkable that this company is able to express the beauty and artistry of this work. The wonderful execution by the Limón dancers, especially Natalie Desch, Carla Maxwell, Raphael Boumaïla, Bradon McDonald, Robert Regala, Mary Ford, and Jonathan Riedel in the solo roles, interestingly underscored the reality that this work originated from the world of ballet. Perhaps because they are adept at emotional expression and perhaps also aided by the intimacy of the theater, the modern dancers in this company ably projected an intense sense of bereavement and human warmth. Small gestures such as a man’s touch on the shoulder of a woman or the small rhythmic lifting steps by the women seemed to carry with them a heightened sense of loss.<P>In addition to bringing back Dark Elegies, the company also revived José Limón’s There is a Time, originally choreographed in 1956 with music by Norman Dello Joio commissioned specifically for this work. This piece based on Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes reflects the pessimistic mood of its inspiration. There was much style and expression to enjoy but little to cheer. As the closing piece of each night’s performance, it left the audience in a gray mood.<P>The Plain Sense of Things by Doug Varone, given its world premiere in Alaska in January of this year before this California introduction, was the most energetic, though still somber, of the three works presented by the Limón company. This work was created on Philip Glass’ The Saxophone Quartet and, not unlike other modern works based on music by Glass, it consisted heavily of sweeping gestures, natural movements, freeze poses, and a heavy amount of repetition albeit it with variations. Clever use of space and lighting however kept this piece interesting to watch.<P>While the Limón company presented somber works, the Diablo Ballet, which is fast becoming my favorite small ballet company, most definitely did the contrary. In Grand Pas D’Action, two dance couples, one classical and the other contemporary, mixed it up in a tomfoolery comedy of confused identity, impetuous infatuation, and foolish pride, replete with mime, acting, and, of course, dancing. However, the comedic focus of the piece may have taken away from the creative manner in which choreographer Nikolai Kabaniaev combined the two polar classical and contemporary styles, especially when one style’s movement is used in counterpoint to the other. Interestingly, the roles were danced by real-life sisters Lauren and Corinne Jonas and real-life brothers Nikolai and Viktor Kabaniaev, which perhaps gave the piece its mood of frivolity and fun. During an intermission in which I was lucky enough to catch the beautiful Jonas sisters and the charming Kabaniaev brothers, the Jonases expressed that, before they formed Diablo Ballet, it had always been their dream to dance together. It showed on stage what a sweet dream it is for them to be dancing together.<P>The one common adjective that can be used to describe ODC/San Francisco’s dancers is “sexy” and Artistic Director and Choreographer Brenda Way certainly knows how to take advantage of the sexiness of her dancers. However, this is a kind of sexiness associated less with grace than with raw strength and power. In Weird Weather, nine dancers ran, bounced, jumped, swung, lifted, leapt, and fluttered in a series of syncopated and furious actions that left the audience breathless. In Scissors Paper Stone, seemingly inspired by A Streetcar Named Desire, three dancers interacted in a series of sketches, done to music by John Lee Hooker, Loudon Wainwright III, and Jimi Hendrix, in impressionistic interpretations of the relationships between Blanche DuBois and Stella and Stanley Kowalski. Dancers Heather Tietsort, Private Freeman, and Tammy Chabowski, having already impressed me with their technical abilities during ODC’s Spring season in San Francisco, impressed me further with their stamina by performing in both physically demanding pieces in the matinee as well as the evening shows.


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