NY Dance Review By Joel Benjamin
The venerable Limón Dance Company, directed by Carla Maxwell, celebrated its 68th Anniversary at the Joyce Theater, a milestone that very few dances companies—ballet or modern—can hope to achieve. Ms. Maxwell knows that no dance company can continue to be vital as a museum. Although the troupe always features at least one Limón work on its programs, they have worked hard to include choreography by a number of other modern dance-makers and this program was no exception, with two world premieres.
The program began, however, with Limón’s “Nocturnes” from 1958, a work straight out of his mentor, Doris Humphrey’s The Art of Making Dances, her influential tome on the craft of choreography. “Nocturnes” is lovely, moving at times, but is best viewed as an example of the “well-made ballet,” where movement themes are repeated for maximum effect, the space is used creatively, groups of dancers are shifted with eye-catching skill and the music is used with subtlety and wit. The sections are named after the Chopin Mazurkas, beginning and ending with full cast sections. Opus 41, No. 1 was a flirtatious duet danced by Elise Drew Leon and Daniel Fetecua, while Op. 41, No.3 was foot-stomping, folksy solo with undertones of agitation for Durell R. Comedy, Kathryn Alter’s Op. 30, No. 2 was light and airy. Daniel Fetecua’s Op. 17, No. 4 was a man-of-the-earth solo in which he often touched the ground as if to communicate with mother earth, a running theme is Limón’s work.
Another theme in his collection of works is that of ritual. The three other works, including another by Limón, fit that bill, beginning with the brand new work by Dianne McIntyre called “She Who Carries the Sky” to music by Jon Hassel/Farafina and R. Carlos Nakai which alternated with sound of Roxane D’Orleans Juste’s breathing. A beautiful fixture of this company for 30 years, Ms. D’Orleans Juste is simply one of the best modern dancers around, a charismatic presence, a quality which Ms. McIntyre used deftly in this work. “She Who Carries the Sky” isn’t choreographically rich, but is powerful nonetheless because this superb dancer knows how to use stillness and knows how to manipulate her multi-layered costume (by Andrea Lauer) with dramatic skill. She creates a mythical creature who can conjure and draw on natural forces and the flowing motions of a long scarf. She skittered about and made searching gestures all to some quiet drumming. She spun quietly like a dervish and ended quietly in the center.
Sean Curran’s “Nocturnes for Ancestors” for the entire company, was a riff on Indian dance. Dressed in vivid takes on classical Indian dance outfits, designed by Amanda Shafran, the company uses movements that quote liberally from Bharat Natyam, including the leg & body positions and the hand gestures (mudras). Mr. Curran handles the groupings with skill as they move about to the commissioned score by Lucia Caruso & Pedro H. da Silva. “Nocturnes” is breezy and happy and shows off the camaraderie of the dancers.
The final work was Limón’s “Psalm” from 1967, re-staged by Ms. Maxwell in 2002 with a new, dark score by Jon Magnussen. As is typical of many Limón works, “Psalm” pits one symbolic figure, here the Just Man (Raphaël Boumaïa, a dancer with the gravity to match Mr. Limón’s) against a chorus of Psalmists, with two Expiatory Figures (Ms. D’Orleans Juste & Kristen Foote) acting as go-betweens. Mr. Limón often used himself as a tragic figure overcoming adversity. Here the put-upon central figure never dances with another dancer, although he is lifted and shifted around by the movements of his two female escorts. All is grave and dark, including the drearily colored costumes by Marion Williams, and never quite finds a satisfying climactic moment. The new score uses Hebrew and Latin sources and is as harsh as the angular arrangements of the dancers and their movements. Limón does create a feel of a community, even if it is a depressed community and also manages to give humanity to the three leads.
Limón Dance Company
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