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Limon's The Moor's PavaneKirov tape and Original 1956 Limon Dance Co. DVD


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#1 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 09:14 AM

Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this. I missed the recent Limon Co. engagement at the Joyce and wanted to see something of his work. I believe I saw a small work once done for part of Juilliard Dance Dept. and he was on stage at the time, but dancers I was with said it wasn't his best work. Now this (to me) odd tape has 3 Shakespeare pieces, including 'The Moor's Pavane'. The others are Rizhenko/Tchaikovsky 'Hamlet' and 'Romeo and Juliet', neither of which I've yet watched. I did watch the Limon once, and was not quite enthralled. I'd like to hear from someone who knows this piece well. I'd keep noticing brilliant dancing in itself, as it were, but didn't find that my first impression was that this was probably the right kind of performance of this work, that I basically still haven't seen it. This is an old vhs from 1990 from NYPL and the back says 'filmed on location at a spectacular medieval castle overlooking the sea', but I strongly felt that I'd rather see it done on a stage. Once in a while it would grab my attention, but mostly it didn't seem to hang together, and I have a feeling that it was this filming and performance, even though it's Kirov dancers Andres Williams, Nikita Dolgushin, Svetlana Semenova, and Gabriella Komleva (I know none of these names, and the year of filming may be some years ealier, I don't know.) It says it's Limon's most famous work, and certainly I've long heard of it, but there may be a better way to view this--some of the 'seaside' filming is not impressive to my taste, some of it looks like it's on a pier, some inside this large gazebo-like structure. Alas.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 01:52 PM

Joffrey used to do "Moor's Pavane" and I found it meditative of Othello, but that it spent more time meditating than actually enlightening the drama or the characters. There seemed to be a good bit of music-filling going on. Brilliant performers make it better. Ours were splendid, especially Christian Holder as Othello.

#3 richard53dog

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 03:12 PM

Joffrey used to do "Moor's Pavane" and I found it meditative of Othello, but that it spent more time meditating than actually enlightening the drama or the characters. There seemed to be a good bit of music-filling going on. Brilliant performers make it better. Ours were splendid, especially Christian Holder as Othello.



I saw the Moor's Pavane a number of times at ABT in the early 70s. Bruce Mark's as the Moor with Toni Lander as his wife and Fernandez and Sallie Wilson
as the Iago/Emilia couple. I also vaguely remember Gregory in it, maybe as the Moor's wife? I must admit I don't remember the piece all that well

#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 04:11 PM

Thanks, Richard and Mel. I imagine there are some much better versions of this, which is strange to say, given this is the Kirov. I can see that Joffrey would be better at this, though, and this tape looks like they are going through the motions most of the time. As I mentioned, brilliant flashes of dancing, but it never hung together, and I thought called for something more simple, rather than something that looked spectacular. Has anybody seen this tape? or dvd (if any)?

Mel, had you spectacular sets like this, or was it simple so it would stay reasonably pure in scale with the music and dancing? I thought these gazebo affairs and pier scenes very bloated for the kind of basically simple movements that were going on--first impression was that it could have done with the most minimalist kind of set. I can see what you meant by too much meditation, and in that case that's probably why it seemed as though it needed to be a lot crisper and maybe even faster throughout.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 04:27 PM

All I can recall for our set was a sky cyc and black legs. It did have the virtue of simplicity. You never knew why Joffrey had picked a certain dance or ballet to perform. He might have had in mind a ground-preparing for obtaining "Missa Brevis" or even "A Choreographic Offering". Either one would have been good on us. Or maybe he just liked it for itself, and as Limon's best-known work, and as a vehicle for Holder and Gary Chryst. We had already done another work, "Rooms" by Anna Sokolow, to which Limon had the rights. You never knew what the backstory was on anything, and sometimes, Joffrey would even deliberately lie about it.

#6 miliosr

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 05:15 PM

papeetepatrick -- I've seen the version of The Moor's Pavane you're referring to and it's best avoided. The filming technique and outdoor locations kill it stone dead.

The best commercially available version of The Moor's Pavane is found on the Jose Limon: Three Modern Dance Classics DVD. This DVD features televised performances of three Limon dances from the 1950s -- The Moor's Pavane, The Traitor and The Emperor Jones. The performance of The Moor's Pavane features the original (and classic) cast from the 1949 premiere -- Limon as The Moor, Lucas Hoving as The Moor's Friend, Pauline Koner as The Friend's Wife and Betty Jones as The Moor's Wife. The filming took place on an extremely small stage but the claustrophobic conditions actually work to the benefit of this performance.

You might also want to check out YouTube as someone posted a very good performance of this work by French ballet dancers. Unfortunately, only the first half of the pavane is posted. Still, half of The Moor's Pavane is better than none at all.

The Limon company itself performs this work with no set at all -- just the four dancers (in those lavish Pauline Lawrence costumes), the music, the lighting and a bare stage. It's all you need, really.

The Moor's Pavane was a repertory staple at ABT throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Limon himself staged it for Bruce Marks in 1970. Among others, Marks and Erik Bruhn essayed the part of The Moor, Royes Fernandez and Ivan Nagy played the Moor's Friend, Toni Lander and Sallie Wilson danced the part of the Friend's Wife and Cynthia Gregory and Martine van Hamel met their makers as the Moor's Wife. I don't know if Rudolf Nureyev ever performed the role at ABT but it was a fixture on his Nureyev&Friends programs during the 70s (the most notorious one being the performance(s) with Nureyev as The Moor, Paolo Bortoluzzi as the Moor's Friend, Karen Kain as the Friend's Wife and Margot Fonteyn as the Moor's Wife.)

I would disagree with Mel's assessment of this work -- I think it is a brilliant abstraction of Othello.

#7 papeetepatrick

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 05:33 PM

papeetepatrick -- I've seen the version of The Moor's Pavane you're referring to and it's best avoided. The filming technique and outdoor locations kill it stone dead.

The best commercially available version of The Moor's Pavane is found on the Jose Limon: Three Modern Dance Classics DVD. This DVD features televised performances of three Limon dances from the 1950s -- The Moor's Pavane, The Traitor and The Emperor Jones. The performance of The Moor's Pavane features the original (and classic) cast from the 1949 premiere -- Limon as The Moor, Lucas Hoving as The Moor's Friend, Pauline Koner as The Friend's Wife and Betty Jones as The Moor's Wife. The filming took place on an extremely small stage but the claustrophobic conditions actually work to the benefit of this performance.


Thanks so much, miliosr, and OH MY GOD. I don't whether it's the singular non-mellowness of the first weeks of January or just Creeping Dementia, but in trying to renew something at NYPL account called 'Three Modern Dance Classics', I find it's exactly the one--the original cast with Limon (my first time to see him dancing) and all else you've described, which I just watched now, immediately to flip over to your comment! Obviously, I ordered them at the same time and then paid no attention to what I was doing. The word 'claustrophobic' that you used was always on my mind while watching this, and you beat me to it. I was going to say "if anything, it needs as much claustrophobia as possible." An oceanfront view for the 'spaciousness', was it? I sort of want to re-check that oddity out again, because I had to keep reminding myself that it was the Kirov, first I just would look and think, well, they really aren't very interested in the piece, and all of as sudden you'd see this rigorous Kirov training in somebody's body which would make me remember it wasn't an amateur company (I think the Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet also have oceanfront views--agree that this kind of ca-ca kills it 'stone dead'...as though everything would automatically 'open up' if placed outdoors...)

But this was wonderful, and I am quite happy I had it on my shelf. Beautiful, integrated dancing which is all about what Limon wanted--of course, how could it not be since he had total control of all of it. You could finally hear the Purcell too. I haven't yet watched 'The Traitor' and 'The Emperor Jones' yet, but will report back when I have. This has Moorish arches too, but it's exactly that unbearable closeness that it needs. Really no need to look for any other version, as this original 1956 cast is exactly what one wants to see, and it is an exemplary piece of ensemble. This one is a DVD I've got.

While I was watching, I kept thinking 'somebody at BT will have written something about this by the time I finish watching it'. I heartily recommend it as well, this is the place to see Limon, and his spoken intro is very good too. Now I remember that I saw him at Juilliard in 1971, which would be a year before his death.

The Limon company itself performs this work with no set at all -- just the four dancers (in those lavish Pauline Lawrence costumes), the music, the lighting and a bare stage. It's all you need, really..


Totally agree with this too, although I liked the particular kind of simple grandeur in the 1956 film set as well, because everything felt very suffocating, with the lavish costumes making it only the more so. But I can easily see it with no set too.

[am changing the title to include both versions, in order of which I saw them.]

#8 miliosr

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 06:27 PM

I look forward to reading your comments, papeetepatrick, about the other two dances contained on the Three Modern Dance Classics DVD.

I didn't love (or even much like) The Traitor when I first saw it on the DVD. BUT, I had the opportunity to see this work in Philadelphia in December 2007 (the Limon company reconstructed it after 20 years of being out-of-repertory) and seeing it in performance changed my opinions of it. Strangely enough, what benefits the televised version of The Moor's Pavane -- the claustrophobic setting -- works against the televised version of The Traitor. To make sense of The Traitor, the viewer must see the entire stage picture. Only then will Limon's spatial intentions come into focus and, as a result, the narrative will become more intelligible.

Funny thing about the Moorish arches in the DVD version of The Moor's Pavane -- that is the set for The Traitor! The film crew utilized the arches for both pieces!! (The arches are meant to convey Old Jerusalem in The Traitor but -- fortuitously -- they call up images of Moorish Cordoba or Seville in the DVD Pavane.)

#9 rg

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 06:52 PM

the first version of THE MOOR'S PAVANE noted here is one more or less pirated by N. Dolgushin in his admiration for the work while still behind the Iron Curtain.
if mem. serves the Limon foundation etc. was much against this appropriation of Limon's work more or less second-hand from video(s) and insisted that work be staged by someone directly connected to Limon or not at all.
the Shakespeare bill is typical of Dolgushin's eagerness to give late Soviet ballet a modernist 'twist' etc.

tho' the video cassette was released after the fall of the soviet union, i believe it was all filmed before that, or at least the stagings were arranged sometime before the filmings themselves.
here are the NYPL credits for the bill in question:
Shakespeare dance trilogy/ presented by FPA Ekran, Gosteleradio, Czech TV Bratislava, and Directfilm ; director, A. Murgazin ; producer, Felix Slidovker. New York, NY : V.I.E.W. Video, 1993, c1991. (70 min.) :
Notes: Performed by dancers from the Kirov Ballet [and other companies?].
Music for Tchaikovsky scores performed by the State Academic Orchestra of the USSR, conductor, Eugene Svetlanov ; music for Purcell score performed by the Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg Conservatory, conductor, V. Chernushenko.
Romeo and Juliet (ca. 22 min.) / choreography, Nataly Rizhenko and Viktor Smirnov-Golovanov ; music, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky ; performed by Svetlana Smirnova (Juliet), Aleksandr Semenchukov (Romeo), Nikita Dolgushin (Master Lorenzo), and others.
The moor's pavane (ca. 24 min.) / choreography, José Limón ; music, Henry Purcell ; performed by Andres Williams (Othello), Svetlana Semenova (Desdemona), Dolgushin (Iago), and Gabriella Komleva (Emilia, Iago's wife). [Although attributed to Limón, the choreography has been somewhat revised, as have the characters' names.]
Hamlet (ca. 24 min.) / choreography, Rizhenko ; music, Tchaikovsky ; performed by Vlastimil Garalis (Hamlet), Smirnova (Ophelia), Dolgushin (Claudius), Komleva (Gertrude), and others.
Camera, Alexander Taffel ; art direction, Eleonora Vinitskaya.
Three ballets based on plays by William Shakespeare, recorded on location at a medieval castle, and linked by the framing device of a troupe of traveling players.

#10 Amy Reusch

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 08:13 PM

Miliosr, do you know, is the structure of the dance related to a traditional Pavane or is it Limon's invention? I can't quite remember what I heard about topic, and Wikipedia's entry on Pavanes isn't terribly enlightening...

#11 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 04:45 AM

A pavane is usually a line dance in duple meter, with the music in song form, with each period repeated (AA - BB - CC, etc.) and a coda. It's usually in andante tempo. With only four dancers, it's tough to make a line dance out of that, and the music has much variety, more than just a pavane. I think that Limon chose the name just to give a historical reference point as the action happening during the Renaissance.

#12 miliosr

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 05:29 AM

Mel is correct, Amy. The Moor's Pavane isn't a true pavane. It was Limon's theatricalized version of one.

#13 bart

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 07:12 AM

Strangely enough, what benefits the televised version of The Moor's Pavane -- the claustrophobic setting -- works against the televised version of The Traitor.

I much appreciate this observation, miliosr. You are absolutely right about the claustrophobic feel of the video. It brings a hallucinatory quality of the relationships being depicted -- and their tension, their sense of entrapment and inevitability and, ultimately, their tragedy.

I first saw Moor's Pavane on the stage at either (can't remember which) City Center or BAM. My visual memory is of something rather quite constricted as to visual field. Is it possible that they darkened the lights around the edges of the stage to make the perfomrance space seem smaller?

:off topic: This matter of the Limon peformances is something I'll think about when tempted to imagine that I know a work because I've watched it on video. As with the Met HD-Live transmission of Damnation of Faust, which we've discussed on another thread, the experience of aa work on screen and the experience of live performance are often hugely, amazingly different.

Speaking only for myself, I don't think that I've really "seen" a dance performance unless I've seen it live in a theater. (Exception: something choreographed and designed specifically for the screen.)

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 07:13 AM

I think that there is a pavane in the mix, somewhere, but there's a lot of other music, too. The Moor's solo, for example, is set to the same dance quoted by Benjamin Britten in his "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell). It's a rondeau in triple meter, and is from Purcell's Abdelazer, or the Moor's Revenge.

#15 miliosr

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Posted 11 January 2009 - 03:09 PM

The phenomenon of which you speak bart -- accomodating a chamber-sized work like The Moor's Pavane to a too large stage by darkening a portion of the stage -- is, unfortunately, not an uncommon one with this work. One of the paradoxes of The Moor's Pavane entering the international ballet repertory is that it is most often seen on opera house-sized stages which are not conducive to seeing the work the way it is meant to be seen -- a large part of the audience is too far away to appreciate the subtleties and the enormity of the stages dwarfs the four members of the pavane. Probably the ideal performance space for a work like this is the Joyce Theater (although City Center would most likely work as well.)

I had hoped that ABT would revive The Moor's Pavane for its Fall season at City Center (and the 100th anniversary of Limon's birth) but, alas, it was not to be. (Not a complaint -- their focus rightly should have been toward going all in for Antony Tudor.) Still, I would love to see a Moor's Pavane with Alex Hammoudi as The Moor, Michelle Wiles as The Moor's Wife, Cory Stearns as The Moor's Friend and Gillian Murphy as the Friend's Wife. I would also love to see Jose Manuel Carreno as The Moor. Sigh -- one can wish can't one?


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