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Limon Dance Company

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The company has put up details about the two week festival in New York:

http://limon.org/jose-limon-international-dance-festival/

The festival will be a comprehensive review of Limon's repertory:

40s: Chaconne, Concerto Grosso, The Moor's Pavane

50s: The Exiles, Dialogues, The Traitor, There Is a Time, Missa Brevis, Mazurkas

60s: A Choreographic Offering, The Winged, Psalm

70s: The Unsung, Dances for Isadora, Orfeo, Carlota

I would prefer it if Missa Brevis, A Choreographic Offering, The Winged and Psalm were all seen on a larger stage, all of which are Limon excusions into large group dancemaking. But better the Joyce than nothing.

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Have my tickets for the 20th and 21st at the Joyce -- Mazurkas (1958), Carlota (1972) and There Is a Time (1956). I've never seen the first two and who knows when they'll come 'round again?

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Mazurkas is really lovely

And to think that it went unperformed for about a quarter century until there were two separate reconstructions in the 80s.

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I know -- I assisted at a reconstruction at the University of Washington, and was so stunned that the work had been moribund all that time.

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I think Mazurkas "failed" at the time of its creation for several reasons. First, the original costumes were done in a heavy, period style which completely smothered what is, essentially, a sprightly little dance. Second, Mazurkas debuted in the same year as Limon's large-scale work, Missa Brevis, which drew all the critical plaudits. Finally, I think Mazurkas went too far against the grain of what Limon was doing at the time in terms of making dances based on literary and Biblical subjects. Basically, there was no reference point for Mazurkas in 1958.

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True, Limon didn't make much work that wasn't narrative in its overall impression if not in structure. And Chopin wasn't a common choice in the modern dance community at the time, for all that Duncan had made several significant works to his music.

Now that you mention it, I don't think I've ever seen the original costumes!

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I just got back from my first night of the mixed rep/mixed company bill of Mazurkas (sjDanceco), Carlota (Limon Dance Company) and There Is a Time (American Repertory Ballet). I'll write more later but, for now, I'll say that Carlota was extraordinary.

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I'll write this in parts so it won't be a big block of text.

I attended Program C of the Limon Festival at the Joyce on the 20th and 21st. The first piece on the bill both nights was Mazurkàs, performed by the San Jose-based sjDanceco. Led by former Limon Company dancer Gary Masters, sjDanceco performs Limon works on a regular basis so the technique and the style are familiar to them.

I won't rehash the history of Mazurkas here (you can reread this thread if you're interested.) Set to Chopin piano figures (played sensitively both nights by Michael Cherry), Mazurkas represents Limon at his most lightheartedly lyrical. Featuring 7 dancers, Mazurkas consists of solos, duets, trios, a quartet and a full company finale.

Unlike Brian Siebert at The Times, who considered the performance he saw to be "sub par," I thought the sjDanceco. dancers brought just the right amount of Western exuberance to the dance. If the technical demands of Limon technique overmatched them at times, the overmatch wasn't hobbling to the company or the dance. Of the two performances I saw, the first worked better than the second as the change in dancer in certain sections from one night to the next did not work in the favor of the second performance.

The company is very young with the exception of the veteran Robert Regala. He danced with the Limon Company in the 90s and 00s and, in fact, danced in the Limon Company's 50th anniversary celebrations in 1997. Of the 7 sjDanceco. dancers, Regala was the one who most had the Limon technique in its bones and who most brought Mazurkas to life.

During the Festival, the Limon Company also performed the full Mazurkas and the New York University Tisch School of the Arts performed a suite version. I wasn't able to see either of those companies perform Mazurkas which was unfortunate as I would have liked to have made the comparison between companies.

Next: Carlota

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Carlota, which was the last dance Limon created and presented before his death in December 1972, was the second piece on the bill each night. Made specifically for Carla Maxwell ("his Carlota"), who has been with the Limon company since 1965 as a dancer and the artistic director, Carlota tells the tale of the mad Empress of Mexico. Born a princess of the Belgian royal house, Carlota married the Arch Duke Maximilian of Austria-Hungary, who accepted the crown of Mexico only to find a population seething with hostility toward him. In the revolution that followed, the new President, Juarez, had 'Max' executed. Carlota descended into madness after Max's death; a state in which she would remain for another 60 years.

Limon's Carlota begins in total darkness. Two piercing screams follow in quick succession and the rising light reveals the title character, heavily shrouded in a hooded robe, sitting on a chair. Soon, we enter into her delusional state where she reunites with her beloved Max and they relive their crownings as Emperor and Empress of Mexico. But the the arrival of Juarez and his revolutionaries turns Carlota's beautiful dream into a nightmare as the revolutionaries assassinate Max. Carlota descends into a frenzied state and the last we see of her she is sitting in her chair waiting to relive her nightmare again and again and again.

Costumed in a vivid scarlet hooped skirt, Brenna Monroe-Cooke was incredible as the increasingly mad Carlota. With her frenzied spins and rolls across the floor, Monroe-Cooke captured vividly Carlota's descent into madness. Ross Katan as Max and Mark Willis as Juarez matched her every step of the way.

As a work of dance theater, I thought Carlota was simply extraordinary. Limon managed to convey Carlota's disordered mind while still presenting a straightforward narrative through the various episodes. This is the piece I've been itching to see for years and, as staged by Carla Maxwell, it did not disappoint.

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I'm so glad to hear about Monroe-Cook's performance. I knew her when she was in Seattle for a few years, and was always very impressed with her stage presence.

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Same here, I remember her dancing as a child with MOMENTA! in Oak Park. It is wonderful to see an artist mature!

Meanwhile, I attended Program F today and was happy to see the Limon repertory being tended to in different regions of North America. This was one of the Next Generation performances and it was interesting to see the students in various stages of development. The focus out of the youngest dancers, from Canada was quite extraordinary. [Canadian Contemporary Dance Theater in exverpts from "The Winged", coached by Kristen Foote".

It's always interesting to see which dancers really find a voice in the repertory vs. who is just executing the choreography the best they understand how. Some of those with presence in solos had trouble blending that presence with their partners, while others matched up beautifully. Unfortunately, it is i possible to know which student was which, so complimenting the successful ones is impossible, but there is some interesting talent cropping up at NCSA, University of Arizona & Southern Methodist.

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Brenna Monroe-Cooke's performance as Carlota was all the more remarkable because there weren't many prior performances to draw on as a stylistic model. To my knowledge, only Carla Maxwell danced the role of Carlota and the last reconstruction was in 1997. The good news is that Monroe-Cooke got direction from Maxwell, the role's originator. So the final result was only one step away from Limon.

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The final piece on the mixed bills I saw was There Is a Time, which is Limon's response to Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes. I've seen both the Limon Company (in 2010 and 2011) and the late, lamented Luna Negra Dance Company (in 2008) perform this piece and I've often thought it was one of Limon's finest.

On the first night, I found the taped music slightly deflating after hearing the Chopin music played live for Mazurkas. American Repertory Ballet performed respectfully of the text but cautiously. It was a performance loyal to Limon's intent but drained of theatrical excitement.

The second performance was far superior to the first. Having taken the measure of the piece and realized they were equal to its demands, the American Repertory Ballet dancers gave a much more dynamic performance the second time around and showed that they are an exceptional small company. (And my ears adjusted to the taped music.)

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I felt that whoever came to the theater in Texas to see "There is a Time" would have "gotten it" rather than felt they were seeing sn academic exercise. I cannot compare it to ARB's interpretation, not having seen that, but I felt the Southern Methodist students had bought into the piece. It is a beautiful piece.

Thinking about ballet dancers and their general difficulties finding their "deep center", one would think ballet dancers trained by Tudor might manage it a little better... Not that Tudor's work requires the different center weight use that Limon does, but I believe his movement somehow comes from deep within in a different way than other ballet choreographers do, different even than the contemporary ballet choreographers do. MacGregor seems to use a different center, but it is not a very 20th century center. Pehaps there has been a change in ABT's interpretation of "Pavane" now that Tudor's direct influence is so distant? trains the dancer as much as technique class does).

I found the recorded piano jarring in Concerto Grosso. It would seem possible to have a live pianist, but perhaps there are AFM legalities involved (?) and it did keep all the performances on equal ground to make rhem all use recorded music.

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I felt that whoever came to the theater in Texas to see "There is a Time" would have "gotten it" rather than felt they were seeing sn academic exercise. I cannot compare it to ARB's interpretation, not having seen that, but I felt the Southern Methodist students had bought into the piece. It is a beautiful piece.

SMU students perform reconstructions consistently (Shelley Berg, on their faculty, stages from notation as well as her experience as a performer)

Thinking about ballet dancers and their general difficulties finding their "deep center", one would think ballet dancers trained by Tudor might manage it a little better... Not that Tudor's work requires the different center weight use that Limon does, but I believe his movement somehow comes from deep within in a different way than other ballet choreographers do...

Both Tudor and Limon felt that emotion or expression came from the movement itself -- Tudor's approach to ballet technique as a choreographer really worked with the fundamental control that is required from the performer -- he used that sense of control metaphorically, in creating characters and shaping a narrative.

MacGregor seems to use a different center, but it is not a very 20th century center.

You put your finger on something very specific here -- I think the center of gravity has shifted, so that it's in between the low initiation in Graham and Humphrey/Weidman/Limon and the higher lift of classical and neo-classical ballet. Think about the difference in a second position plie between Limon's Moor's Pavane, McGregor's Chroma, and anything by Balanchine.

And yes, I'm saying the repertory [danced true to style] trains the dancer as much as technique class does).

Of course it does!

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Well this is an interesting development!

I thought Roxane D'Orleans Juste, who has been a company member for 30+ years and has been assistant artistic director for a while, would have the inside track to the top spot. But who knows if she wanted it? And who knows what the board was looking for?

It was interesting to read Colin Connor's quote that he hopes to, "reinvigorate the way the Limon vision and perspective resonates." I'm not sure what that means, exactly. I do think it will be a plus to have a fresh pair of eyes looking at all the productions. Some of them look great in terms of production design but some of them could use overhauls. Emperor Jones, in particular, really could use a radical revamp.

I would also like to see a recommitment to the Doris Humphrey repertory, which has become very scattershot in the last decade. Day on Earth should be a part of the regular repertory just as much as The Moor's Pavane.

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I love Day on Earth, but it can be a challenge to perform, especially on tour, because of the child role.

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I love Day on Earth, but it can be a challenge to perform, especially on tour because of the child role.

I can understand it in terms of touring but there's really no reason why it can't be more of a fixture during their New York seasons. They rest The Moor's Pavane every other New York season so that it doesn't become overdone like Revelations at Ailey. Why not program Day on Earth during the alternate seasons when The Moor's Pavane is resting?

Since I began watching the company in 2004, they've only programmed a few Humphrey pieces in New York and yet they still maintain the position in all their press and online materials that Humphrey is still vital to their tradition. There's an obvious disconnect between what they're saying and what they're actually dancing.

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I've been thinking (again) about the challenge of taking a choreographer-driven company into the future, post-choreographer, and I'm feeling divided. I'm usually pretty optimistic about the possibility of integrity when it comes to works made for the acolyte generation, but as we see the post-modern cohort facing their end times (Trisha Brown's company plays its last shows here in a couple weeks), and watch Paul Taylor try to shape the direction of his group so that it will live past his time, things are feeling a bit fragile to me.

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things are feeling a bit fragile to me.

I've been rereading Jack Anderson's modern dance survey, Art without Boundaries, and I'm up to the chapters dealing with postmodernism in the 1960s. It's amazing to me, though, to reread the book and see how many repertories from the pre-60s era(s) have disappeared. Really, you have Ailey, Graham and Limon occupying a reasonably secure space and everything else is either dead or existing in a tenuous form.

It doesn't help my mood when I read something like this from a 20-year-old who thinks she knows it all:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alexandra-villarreal/the-jose-limon-internatio_b_8366686.html

Talk about arrogance -- dismissing a standing ovation for The Winged as a function of "nostalgia". If nostalgia could do that, then there would be many more repertories afloat these days than what we actually see. And I have to chuckle at the writer's boast that she's, "more invested in the present and the future." She will be in for the shock of her life when she reaches middle or old age and finds that all the stuff she thought was so hip and happening in her youth has fallen by the wayside.

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