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Modern Dance Company Survival Rates Since the 70s


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#16 Amy Reusch

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 08:35 PM

"I find it interesting that three of the four surviving companies from the Dance Posters list are associated with techniques than can be methodically taught: Graham (Martha Graham Company), (Lester) Horton (Alvin Ailey Company) and Humphrey-Limon (Limon Company).  " ~ Miliosr

Is it because they cultivated techiques or because they built up an institution (in the form of a school) and that institution perpetuated the company?

#17 sandik

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Posted 20 January 2015 - 11:31 AM

Not all the same.  Graham was reluctant to develop anything like a codified technique -- she wanted to dance, and so she made material on herself.  And when she wanted to dance in a group, she taught herself to other people.  There are still aspects of the technique that are only done to one side, because those elements are only performed to one side in the repertory.  The school gave her a home base -- the company members were the ones that really took on the tasks of teaching.

 

Of all the people you mention, Humphrey was really the one that wanted to create a singular, independent dance technique.  She loved to dance, and loved to make dances, but she was a methodical soul, and put an amazing amount of effort into the development of the technique, thinking about it particularly as an alternative to ballet.  She (and Weidman) spent an incredible amount of time teaching, first with Denishawn, and then with their own studio.  I think that her (relatively) early retirement from performing really helped focus her work on others.

 

Horton's school was more ad hoc, but as I understand it, he developed his technique separate from his choreographic life.  But it was the consistent take-away that Ailey and others carried with them from LA to NYC -- they didn't really restage his repertory, but they did continue to practice the style.



#18 miliosr

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 02:40 PM

I think of Limon technique as evolving in three separate stages:

 

  • The first stage, in which Doris Humphrey and (to a lesser extent) Charles Weidman, used the Humphrey-Weidman company as a laboratory to develop the primary building blocks of the technique: fall, recovery and suspension.  This was also the stage in which Humphrey developed the whole notion of breath rhythm.
  • The second stage, in which Jose Limon, through his teachings and repertory, extended the technique further by adding the notions of isolations and "the body as an orchestra".
  • The final stage, in which the first generation of Limon dancers began teaching and, in the process, honing the technique.  Betty Jones, who was the original Desdemona in The Moor's Pavane and who teaches to this very day, was instrumental in this regard as she became very concerned that the technique harmonize with sound anatomical ideas.


#19 sandik

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 03:00 PM

Interesting -- I generally think of Limon in two eras. When Humphrey was still offering him direct advice, and after her death. But yes, by the time a technique has developed to the point that it's taught by people other than the creator, it's become more codified.

#20 miliosr

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Posted 25 January 2015 - 04:28 PM

Oh, I absolutely think of Limon as two eras (in terms of the company and his repertory) while he was alive -- with Humphrey and without her.  In fact, you can almost divide the company timeline perfectly into halves -- 1946-1959 (w/ Humphrey) and 1959-1972 (without her).  The second half proved problematic for Limon because, for the first time, he couldn't rely on Humphrey for advice about which pieces to make and no longer had her critical eye in the studio.  He had a fairly high number of flops in the immediate aftermath of her death (say, 1959-1963) which, unfortunately for Limon, coincided with the rise of post-modernism in dance.  He would right the ship somewhat in the mid-60s with A Choreographic Offering, The Winged and Psalm but even these were judged as being much too long.  (The Limon company now performs A Choreographic Offering in suite form and they've reconstituted The Winged and Psalm by lopping off half their lengths.)




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