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Limon Dance Company

by Suzana Stankovic, Robert Abrams
August 27, 2005
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456

Featured Dance Company:

The Limón Dance Company
The José Limón Dance Foundation (office)
307 W. 38th Street, Suite 1105
New York, NY 10018
(212) 777-3353
www.limon.org

Jose Limon and Company

www.limon.org

Suzana Stankovic with an aside by Robert Abrams
August 27, 2005

August 27th 2005 was a perfect summer night in New York City, a little humid as usual but with a gentle, ever-present breeze to make for a splendid evening outdoors, which is exactly where I was- at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Festival, to see The Limon Dance Company for the first time.

I got their pretty early and watched for a long time the steady stream of people filing in between the aisles under the expansive and romantic sky above, until at last the flow of movement stopped as everyone focused on the stage, even the trees seemed poised, waiting for that precious opening moment in which anything is possible. For some reason, I loved every minute of that airy, pre-show, summer night, shimmering anticipation. But let me get to the task at hand here before I lose myself in the dreamy beauty still vivid in my thoughts. My passion for summer nights easily overcomes me!

Five modern works were on the program and interestingly only two were by Jose Limon. The first piece, Evening Songs, was one of my favorites. Choreographed by Jiri Kylian and set to the choral music of Dvorak, it was a spiritual and moving piece. There were moments that I loved. Performed by eight dancers, often dancing in cannon and unison, Evening Songs had an air of sacredness and purity. It was simple and clean but not unsophisticated. The formations and lines reminded me of folk dances but with the added feeling of transcendence. The movement was grounded and the dancers, dressed in white, weaved with, and away from each other in different patterns of trios and duets. What discerned this piece from folk dancing was the flight-like breath that infused the choreography from start to finish. And it was intimate, quietly emotional and well developed throughout. The dancers had excellent chemistry, which made for a seamless, effortless feel- always a sign of refined artistry.


Limon Dance Company - Evening Songs
Photo courtesy of Beatriz Schiller



The second piece Angelitos Negros, was choreographed by Donald McKayle and set to the music of Manuel Alvarez Maciste. It was a solo performed by Roxane D'Orleans Juste. This solo was a stark contrast to Evening Songs. It took me a while to settle in to the ethnic, flamenco-like mood of this solo. Although I tried my best to feel it I simply didn't get much out of this solo. The choreography wasn't developed well. It sort of never arrived anywhere and after a while seemed predictable. I appreciated the effort that both the choreographer and dancer made to convey passion and feeling. At moments that Latin intensity did reach me but there were many disappointments that followed. The dancer did a fine job but I felt she could have articulated more with her torso, showing the contrast between hard and soft, tension and release that so marked this solo throughout. I know it takes great energy and stamina to go from one extreme to another but when you're alone on stage everything you do must be 150%. It's up to you and only you to create a whole living, breathing world and pull the audience in.

I very much enjoyed Angelitos Negros. I thought that Roxane D'Orleans Juste danced with great passion. I thought the choreography paid authentic homage to Spanish dance and Flamenco while still being a modern dance work. It was my favorite work of the evening — Robert Abrams

The third piece on the program was also a solo, entitled Chaconne choreographed by Jose Limon and set to the music of J.S. Bach. Now this is what I was waiting for, something by Limon himself! Not that the other choreographers were of less importance to me but this is The Limon Company after all so Limon choreography must really be their thing, right?

Chaconne…….hmmmmm…..it really didn't make an impression on me. Sorry. It was sandwiched in the middle of the program and the dancer, Raphael Boumaila, performed it as though it were a mere interlude, equivalent to a commercial in the middle of a great show on T.V. I did not enjoy his performance at all. Technically it was fine but he lacked power and conviction, which immediately deflated any hopes of this solo ever taking off. A solo is a golden opportunity to shine your light far and wide. I never saw his light. The choreography had traces of an individual voice wanting expression, and there were moments of extreme beauty due to a sudden sensitivity for the music but otherwise bland. I'm sure that if I had been around at the time of its premiere in 1942 however, this piece might have made a greater impact on me.

It is always a challenge to choreograph a solo. The choreographer must have a very clear vision and sense of progression for the compact nature of a solo. In my opinion, a solo should be like poetry both jam-packed and distilled. If the vision isn't there the whole thing can just float around in limbo creating an awkward, unfocused and impatient vibe in the audience. And really, what makes all the difference are small decisions, details about the evolution of the character, keen attention to changes in the music and of course, the dancer being sensitive enough to convey those tiny crucial subtleties that carry both the piece and the audience forward.

The fourth piece was also by Limon, The Moor's Pavane (Variations on the theme of Othello) set to the music of Henry Purcell. This piece premiered in 1949 seven years after the premiere of Chaconne and boy could I see the growth and refinement that occurred in Limon! This piece was a substantial success, portraying a drama with great intelligence and sensitivity. The development in this piece, which consists of two couples dressed in gorgeous, rich Renaissance costumes and an all-important handkerchief, was superb! The relationships were clear, the emotions were strong and the choreography had some exquisite moments. Much like Shakespeare's Othello, the handkerchief spurs a major turning point in the story. I remember one heartbreakingly beautiful scene involving the handkerchief. The dancers, Francicsco Ruvalcaba, Jonathan Riedel, Roxane D'Orleans Juste and Brenna Monroe-Cook, interacted with the handkerchief with reverence and grace as though it were another dancer. This level of artistry is exquisite and powerful. I also loved the musicality of this piece. There were moments of choreography that were totally in sync with the music as though the two were inseparable. That's transcendent and captivating!

The last piece of the evening, Concerto Six Twenty-Two by Lar Lubovitch set to one of Mozart's less than memorable compositions was a nice ending for a summer evening outdoors. When I think of trademark modern dance this piece is what I think of: a large cast of dancers ceaselessly flowing across the stage to what is to me, background-type classical music. And I don't mean this in a negative way. This was a lovely piece, well placed in the order of the program. It's just that the initial wonder at non-stop, interconnected phrasing quickly fizzled out for me even though the dancers did a superb job. They seemed to really enjoy themselves, alternating between youthful, child-like leaps and good-humored pedestrian movement such as jogging in place. The occasional lifts were a pleasure as was the way in which the end of one sequence would serve as the beginning for another. All in all this was a fun piece but I soon realized that it would be no dire loss if I should for whatever reason miss about ten seconds of it for the choreography and music bobbed along unchanged for the most part. I guess there are two possible ways of looking at this. Either it's monotonous and predictable to some or breezy smooth sailing to others, sort of like easy listening.

I appreciated the spirit of joy the dancers interwove throughout this piece like a bright ribbon in the night. As far as topping off a summer evening outdoors, that was enough for me. J



Suzana Stankovic is a dancer and choreographer living and working in New York City. Please seehttp://www.stankovicballet.com for more information.

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