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Jose Limon/Limon Dance Company2010-11


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#16 miliosr

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 12:10 PM

I've been reading the November 1957 issue of UK dance magazine Dance and Dancers, which contains a long Clive Barnes review of the Limon company's performances in London. The review is interesting for a lot of reasons (including Barnes' reports of general English resistance to the Humphrey/Limon variant of modern dance.) But what was most interesting to me was how much repertory the company could mount in those days, particularly the Humphrey repertory (which is rarely seen anymore at Limon):

Humphrey -- New Dance(1935), Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Meijas (1946), Day on Earth (1947), Night Spell (1951), Ruins and Visions (1952), Ritmo Jondo (1953), Dance Overture (1957)

Limon -- Concerto Grosso in D Minor (1945), La Malinche (1949), The Moor's Pavane (1949), The Traitor (1954), There Is a Time (1956), Emperor Jones (1956)

Pauline Koner -- Concertino in A Major

Lucas Hoving and Lavinia Nielsen -- Satyros

Time has been much kinder to Limon than it has to Humphrey. 3 of the 6 Limon pieces from this tour will be featured at the company's upcominng NYC performances and two others are in current repertory. Only "Concerto Gross" appears to have fallen by the wayside. Meanwhile, no Humphrey pieces will be performed at the NYC dates.

#17 vipa

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 04:58 PM

I went to see the Limon Company last night at John Jay college. I really enjoyed it. The dancers are terrific - musical, great movement quality and very human looking. There was There is a Time & The Emperor Jones - both old Limon pieces that reminded me how wonderfully he structured things.

The middle piece was called Chrysalis. Choreography by Jonathan Fredrickson and music composed for the piece by Marcos Galvany. I loved it. (Mr. Millepied please watch and learn).

It is a piece for 6 women - well structured, very well danced, exciting music, quite dramatic and open to interpretation. Reading the title of the piece gave me one idea, reading in the program the inspiration for the piece gave me another.

The live musicians were wonderful.

Funny thing being an aging dance goer. We were given surveys to fill out which asked if we had ever seen the Limon Company before. I thought I saw the company a long time ago. It's very likely that I saw the company before any of the current dancers were born!

Seeing Limon's choreography made me wish ABT would do the Moor's Pavane.

#18 miliosr

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 04:17 PM

Seeing Limon's choreography made me wish ABT would do the Moor's Pavane.

I agree. It's a pity that Jose Manuel Carreno never got to dance it because he would have brought just the right amount of tragedy to the role. Here's hoping that Marcelo Gomes gets to dance it at ABT before he retires.

I attended Program A (There Is a Time/Chrysalis/The Emperor Jones) on Friday (06/10) and Program C (La Cathedrale Engloutie/The Emperor Jones/Missa Brevis) on Saturday (06/11). Full reviews to follow.

Until then, Mary Cargill reviews Program A in danceviewtimes:

http://www.danceview...rpose.html#more

And Claudia La Rocco reviews Program B in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.c....html?ref=dance

#19 vipa

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 05:37 PM

I attended Program A (There Is a Time/Chrysalis/The Emperor Jones) on Friday (06/10) and Program C (La Cathedrale Engloutie/The Emperor Jones/Missa Brevis) on Saturday (06/11). Full reviews to follow.


I look forward to your thoughts. I thought the quality of the dancers quite high.

#20 bart

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 05:06 AM

I look forward to your thoughts.

Me to !!! I'm especially interested to hear what you think about The Emperor Jones. Mary Cargill's review in danceviewtimes refers to The Moor's Pavane, which also tries to distill a long and complicated theatrical work into an intensely focused, relatively short dance piece. Many of us have seen Moor's Pavane, but I hadn't even heard of The Emperor Jones.

#21 miliosr

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 10:41 AM

June 10, 2011
Gerald W. Lynch Theater
John Jay College

There Is a Time (Jose Limon/1956)
Chrysalis (Jonathan Fredrickson/2010)
The Emperor Jones (Jose Limon/1956)

The Limon Dance Company's recent week-long performances in New York were its last performances in New York prior to the company's 65th anniversary season in 2011-12. (The Limon company is the second-oldest modern dance company in the United States [after the Graham company], the oldest in terms of no missed seasons, and the first [of only a handful] to survive the death of its founder.)

One of the great pleasures of seeing the company this week came not from the dancers but from the audience. What a pleasure it was to attend a performance where the audience was reflective of the population as it exists on the streets surrounding John Jay College! How proud would Jose Limon be to see his idea of dance theater attracting such a diverse audience!! (Quite a difference, I must say, from the disgracefully homogenous audience I saw at the New York City Ballet the following day.)

As an added treat, Betty Jones (one of Limon's original company members in the 1940s) was in the audience on Friday night. I didn't have the nerve to approach her but I must say she looks fantastic for a woman who must be well into her 80s at this point.

There Is a Time

I've had odd luck with There Is a Time in the past. Either I was sick as a dog on the night (2008), the version I saw was a suite version (2009), or the version I saw occurred in a less than optimal performing space (2010). Finally, on Friday night, none of those conditions applied and I was able to see There Is a Time as it was meant to be seen: complete, performed on a proper stage and me, the viewer, being in good health.

There Is a Time, of course, is Limon's meditation on Ecclesiastes. Using circles as a crucial motif, Limon created numerous variations which he used to illustrate the contrasting verses of Ecclesiastes (i.e. 'A time to mourn'/'A time to laugh'.) As a story ballet (of sorts), I've always been neutral to There Is a Time and was so again on Friday night. But as an excercise in the use of circles as a dance motif, this dance hit me with full force on my fourth go-round. Limon was ingenious in how he used circles in this dance. Not only are there those beautiful full-company opening and closing circles but also numerous smaller circles in which the dancers themselves rotate their heads and/or torsos in circular movements while dancing in a larger circle. So, so clever!

As for the actual performance, I thought it took awhile to get going on the night. There Is a Time only really hit its stride when the more senior dancers -- Raphael Boumaila in 'A time to speak' and Kristen Foote in 'A time to laugh' -- jump-started it to life. After that, the company and the dance carried on at a chipper pace to the concluding circle.

My only other quibble with the performance -- and this carried over to other performances during the run as well -- was with the uneven deployment of Limon technique among the company members. While the dancers are splendid and convey the impression that they can dance just about anything, I did notice that some company members were utilizing the technique more fully than others. The dancers who have been with the company ten years or more -- Boumaila (especially), Foote and Francisco Ruvalcaba -- articulated those quintessential Limon falls and rebounds in a way that I didn't always see with the more junior company members. This is perfectly understandable as Boumaila, Foote and Ruvalcaba have obviously internalized the technique and the style to such a degree that they can manifest Limon's theatrical intentions to the maximum possible degree. Hopefully, in time, the newer company members (and there are a fair amount of them due to recent turnover) will master the technique and the style more fully in coming seasons.

Chrysalis

Doris Humphrey famously remarked that, "All dances are too long." Certainly, that was the case with former company member Jonathan Fredrickson's Chrysalis. (Fredrickson left the company in February to join Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago.)

Set to a commissioned score by Marcos Galvany, Chrysalis tells the tale of five women who are engaged in some kind of ritual. One of the five (dancer Belinda McGuire) separates herself from (or becomes separated from) the rest of the group, and engages in a long solo of self-discovery. Eventually, she reunites with the group but she is forever separated from them by what appears to be some kind of elevated status.

To me, Chrysalis was an honorable failure. As a young choreographer, Fredrickson proved that he knows how to deploy bodies in space. In addition, he also showed that Limon technique is a living thing, and can be utilized in a "contemporary" way rather than in its more commonly seen "classical" manner.

That being said, I thought the entire dance was too long. By the time McGuire finished her voyage of self-discovery, I didn't really care what she discovered about herself. To my mind, the mistake Fredrickson made was in thinking that he had to use all of Galvany's score rather than utilizing parts of it. With more judicious cherry-picking of the score (and consequent trimming of the dance), the piece could breathe more fully in the future -- I hope Fredrickson keeps working on it.

Finally, I can't say enough good things about Galvany's score. Conducted by Limon company musical director David La Marche and performed by a small chamber group, it was driving but tonal. I was ambivalent about the dance but greatly enjoyed the music.

The Emperor Jones

The Emperor Jones is Jose Limon's redaction of Eugene O'Neill's play of the same name. Like his much more famous The Moor's Pavane, Limon's Emperor Jones is not meant to be a scene-by-scene reenactment of the play. Instead, Limon focuses on the disintegrating mind of Jones through a series of episodes, some of which occur in real time and some of which occur in flashback.

During the lifespan of this dance (55 years), only Limon and his hand-picked successor, Clay Taliaferro, ever danced the part of The Emperor. The dance was out of repertory for 25 years until Taliaferro staged it this year for the company. Daniel Fetecua Soto is now only the third person to ever essay the part of Jones, and his casting was one of the best things about this revival. Unlike Limon (who was well over six feet tall) and Taliaferro (who is in the 6'5" range), Fetecua Soto is not particularly tall. Nevertheless, he dominated the stage with great forcefulness and charisma. He is also a physical dynamo and he achieved some spectacular physical effects, including a stunning sequence where he was like a gymnast on a pommel horse except he was on his back.

As for the dance itself, I must confess that some of it baffled me the first night. To me, the most obscure part of the dance occured in real time when the mysterious Trader/Man in White engaged in a dance duel of sorts with the Emperor. Having not read O'Neill's play or seen a production of it, I was puzzled by this encounter, which was obviously meant to be the central determining event of the dance. But why was this so? Why did this encounter cause the Emperor to become unhinged, and to relive episodes from his past?

I've written on this board before about how choreographers who base dances on literary or historical sources can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the dance is conveying essential information from the source material when, in fact, the choreographer is using the viewer's familiarity with the material to fill in the gaps. Limon's The Traitor has a bit of this problem, Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet has it to a greater degree, and Martha Graham's Clytaemnestra has this problem full-blown. Leaving the theater after the performance, I couldn't help but think that The Emperor Jones has this same problem. Unlike Limon's The Moor's Pavane, I thought, it might not have a life independent of its source. I went to bed that night pondering what I had seen but grateful that I would have the opportunity to see it again the following night.


All told, it was an interesting night of dance theater. I would be lying if I said it was my best ever encounter with the Limon Dance Company. Still, as I walked back to my hotel after the show, I was thankful that this little jewel box of a company has survived lo these many years after its founding, and that Limon's works still exist in faithful renderings for present-day audiences to enjoy.

Coming next: My review of the Saturday show

#22 bart

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 01:14 PM

It's great to read your review, miliosr. As a fan of Moor's Pavane and someone who is especially curious about what Limon could possibly do with The Emperor Jones, I was especially interested in the following:

I've written on this board before about how choreographers who base dances on literary or historical sources can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the dance is conveying essential information from the source material when, in fact, the choreographer is using the viewer's familiarity with the material to fill in the gaps. Limon's The Traitor has a bit of this problem, Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet has it to a greater degree, and Martha Graham's Clytaemnestra has this problem full-blown. Leaving the theater after the performance, I couldn't help but think that The Emperor Jones has this same problem. Unlike Limon's The Moor's Pavane, I thought, it might not have a life independent of its source

Moor's Pavane does indeed have a life "independent of its source." The menage a quatre on stage speaks, even in the silent world of dance, for itself.

Emperor Jones, which I've only seen in the Paul Robeson film, has a plot almost as convoluted as the full Othello. I can't for the life of me figure out how to reduce it to something simple. There are so many elements: extreme ups and downs of fortune, at least two essential settings, sex, power, corruption, African cultural influences, a terrifying jungle -- culminating in a mad scene and death.

It has of course a bravura part for the lead male actor-dancer. (I know that Limon himself danced the part.) But ... how on earth did he compress the story into 20 or 30 minutes?

#23 miliosr

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 01:28 PM

June 11, 2011
Gerald W. Lynch Theater
John Jay College

La Cathedrale Engloutie (Jiri Kylian/1975)
The Emperor Jones (Jose Limon/1956)
Missa Brevis (Jose Limon/1958)

The Limon Dance Company's Saturday night performance was also a virtual reunion of the last iteration of Jose Limon's company before he died in 1972. In addition to current artistic director Carla Maxwell (her 33rd year in the post -- longer than Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon and Ruth Currier combined), I spotted Limon master stagers/teachers Gary Masters, Clay Taliaferro and Nina Watt.

La Cathedrale Engloutie

Since assuming the directorship of Limon in 1978, Carla Maxwell has followed a policy of programming compatible dances from the modern dance repertory to supplement its Limon dances. The company has danced this work before and revived it this season with the help of former Nederlands Dans Theater dancer Jeanne Solan, who danced in the original production.

La Cathedrale Engloutie takes its inspiration from a 5th century legend of a cathedral that disappears beneath the sea and then reappears to certain chosen individuals. The dance's score is a hybrid of surf sounds and music by Debussy, which itself was inspired by the legend.

The dance is bookended by the disappearance and reappearance of the cathedral. The main part of the dance, however, consists of a series of duets beginning with two male-female couples and moving through a male-male duet and a female-female duet. Kylian creates some astonishing physical effects with this dance and the four featured dancers kept pace with Kylian's strenuous demands.

My complaint, though, is two-fold. At times, the movement was Euro-dance at its worst -- more gymnastics than dance. Furthermore, I did not find that the main part of the dance had much connection to its stated theme. (Certainly, the rather pretentious program notes were of no help.) The main part of the dance could have been about anything rather than the purported theme.

La Cathedrale Engloutie was by no means a disappointment. But its appeal stemmed largely from the dancers themselves, who proved with this that they could go toe-to-toe with dancers from any modern dance company in the world.

The Emperor Jones

My second exposure to The Emperor Jones was a happier experience than the first night's experience was. While I was no less puzzled by the central "duet" between the Emperor and the Trader/Man in White, I did not stress about this on the second night and instead accepted it as the defining event of the dance from which all else flows. Having got past that hurdle, I could enjoy the various episodes/flashbacks which constitute the Emperor's mental disintegration. And what marvelous episodes they are! They include a chain gang, a slave auction, a murder and an African ritual. The Limon men were outstanding in these sections, which are an interesting combination of dance and pantomimic theater.

The Emperor Jones will probably never be one of my favorite Limon pieces. It shares with Limon's The Traitor the flaw of needing familiarity with the source material to render the dance intelligible. Still, it's worth preserving for no other reason than it shows off the Limon men to such powerful effect.

Missa Brevis

Missa Brevis is Jose Limon's "dance Mass" set to Zoltan Kodaly's Missa Brevis in Tempore Belli. Since the dance requires 23 dancers and the Limon company only consists of 12-15 dancers at any one time, Carla Maxwell has implemented the Missa Brevis Project, which allows the company to take on dancers from the communities in which it is appearing in order to bring Missa Brevis to life.

For its recent five-week Mexican tour, the company took on dancers from Mexico and these dancers travelled to New York for the company's New York performances. In her New York Times review, Claudia Lo Rocco was absolutely right to single out the Mexican dancers for the diversity of body type and (I would add) ethnicity they brought to an already diverse company. (New York City Ballet take note.) To me, the Mexican dancers were one of the highlights of the season.

As for the performance itself, it wasn't as good as the one I saw in 2009. There were two reasons for this. First, the John Jay College stage was too small for Missa Brevis. The dancers looked like they were cramped and holding something back lest they throttle their immediate neighbor on-stage. The second problem was the absence of live music, which makes all the difference for Missa Brevis. A full choir singing Kodaly's Mass is powerful in its own right and brings something out of the dancers that no tape can achieve.

As a result of these two problems, Missa Brevis swung the dancers more than the dancers swung Missa Brevis. But what a testament to Limon's invention that the dance can survive and even triumph in the face of adverse conditions. There were some absolutely beautiful sequences, including circles of dancers dissolving into stunning individual spirals and dancer Kathryn Alter spinning like a top which was then picked up by Francisco Ruvalcaba. The Moor's Pavane is often spoken of as Limon's masterpiece but, to my mind, Missa Brevis may deserve that honor.


Whatever mild criticisms I may have of the dancing and the repertory, I must say that, on the whole, the company looks like it is in strong shape as it heads into its 65th anniversary season. My hope for 2011-12 is that the company revives Limon's Missa Brevis (with live music and a bigger stage), A Choreographic Offering (the rarely seen complete version), The Winged, The Unsung and Carlota. But regardless of what the repertory will be, who would have guessed that Jose Limon's little chamber company from 1946 would endure to this very day?

#24 bart

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 04:00 PM

It seems a shame that relatively few people now have the opportunity to see Limon's work. Your discussion of Missa Brevis, and the inclusion of what I assume to be freelance Mexican dancers, made me suggests that some of his works can be danced effectively by dancers with other kinds of training.

Are any of the Limon works you've seen recently good possibilties for other companies? I can imagine a couple of companies which might lke to try Emperor Jones.

#25 miliosr

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 04:04 AM

Emperor Jones, which I've only seen in the Paul Robeson film, has a plot almost as convoluted as the full Othello. I can't for the life of me figure out how to reduce it to something simple. There are so many elements: extreme ups and downs of fortune, at least two essential settings, sex, power, corruption, African cultural influences, a terrifying jungle -- culminating in a mad scene and death.

But ... how on earth did he compress the story into 20 or 30 minutes?

Based on what I saw, I'm not sure Limon solved entirely the problem of reducing the O'Neill play into a compressed dance drama. Strangely enough, the Emperor's flashbacks are more clear-cut and intelligible than those segments (the duet between the Emperor and the Trader, the Emperor's panicked journey through a "jungle") which occur in present time.

To his credit, Limon only wrote very short program notes for The Emperor Jones. He laid out his intentions in brief and then let the dance rise or fall on its merits. (This unlike Martha Graham's program notes for Clytaemnestra, which covered a page-and-a-half of an 8x10 program and still weren't able to make the dance comprehensible.)

During the 1940s and 1950s, Limon and Graham made many dances based on historical or literary sources. When they made these dances, they must have taken for granted they were dealing with a literate audience that was familiar with the source materials. Therefore, neither one felt it necessary to spell out the nuances in the source materials.

The trouble today, however, is that you are not necessarily dealing with a dance audience that is particularly familiar with literature or history. This is especially true for The Emperor Jones, which is rarely performed today due to its problematic language.

I wouldn't call Limon's Emperor Jones a failure. But I wouldn't call it a success either. To me, it occupies a netherworld between the two. An interesting experiment, maybe???

#26 miliosr

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Posted 17 June 2011 - 06:06 AM

Are any of the Limon works you've seen recently good possibilties for other companies? I can imagine a couple of companies which might lke to try Emperor Jones.

Well, if you're asking about works that ballet companies could reasonably dance, my short list would include:

The Moor's Pavane (Already entrenched at the international level)
Chaconne (Limon's great solo for the male dancer)
Mazurkas (Almost every critic who saw New York Theatre Ballet perform this in 2008 loved it. I think our own Leigh Witchel was the exception.)
A Choreographic Offering

I thought it was very brave of Nikolaj Hubbe to program The Unsung for the Danes but I anticipated mixed reviews for it and sure enough the reviews I read didn't confound my expectations. This one may be too modern dance for the ballet audience even though you could really show off your male dancers in it. (Would love to see ABT program this for its corps guys.)

#27 miliosr

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 04:34 PM

I received the latest mailer from Kaatsbaan today in which they list the Historic Dance Theatre Lectures scheduled for the Summer. Here are the Limon-related ones:

Thursday, June 30
Melinda Coppel & the Limon Dance Company
Jose Limon, Modern Dance, and the State Department's Agenda: Dance as Cold War Cultural Propaganda in the 1950s
The Limon Dance Company toured under the auspices of the State Department in 1954 and 1957. Coppel discusses details of the company's visits at various tour stops as well as the company's impressions of some of the cities visited.

Thursday, August 4
Lynn Garafola & the Limon Dance Company
Dialogue on Dance: The Art of Jose Limon
Lynn Garafola will discuss the choreographer's life and art focusing on Missa Brevis (1958). The lecture will include performances of excerpts by members of the company, introduced by artistic director Carla Maxwell.

#28 miliosr

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Posted 06 July 2011 - 04:20 PM

A nice little report about Limon's Chaconne at the Bavarian State Ballet:

http://www.theballet...t-extra-series/

#29 miliosr

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 05:03 PM

The Moor's Pavane in Tajikistan!



I wonder if this version was sanctioned or if it's one of the various bootleg versions that have floated around the Soviet Union (and then its successor states) since the Limon Company toured the Soviet Union in 1972.

This is the last post for this season. If you enjoy these Limon-related threads, please let me know via PM. There isn't a lot of feedback to these so, if I'm just writing for myself, I may let it go for 2011-12.

#30 Amy Reusch

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 08:09 PM

I am glad you have been doing it and love when there are video links. I've always felt Limon was the modern dance direction ballet companies should head in.


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