Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
miliosr

Limon Dance Company - Kennedy Center

Recommended Posts

Are any of our DC posters planning to attend the Limon Dance Company's performances at the Kennedy Center in November? I bought my tickets for the 2nd and 3rd so I will be posting reviews regardless.

Share this post


Link to post

Please do post your review, miliosr, even if the response to your query isn't overwhelming! Looking forward to reading what you have to say.

Share this post


Link to post

I will! I haven't seen the company in years and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll be looking forward to reading you :blush:

Share this post


Link to post

I hope they do one (or more) pieces by Doris Humphrey. I would like to see for myself what all the fuss was about!

Share this post


Link to post

My latest Limon E-News bulletin arrived this week and, according to the company, they have commissioned two new works for the Fall season.

Lar Lubovich has choreographed Recordare which will feature the full company and draws inspiration from Limon's native Mexico and the Day of the Dead. Recordare will premiere in Boston on October 29.

Company member Jonathan Riedel choreographed the second new work, Unfortunate Etiquette. The bulletin states that this work is inspired by the writings and illustrations of Edward Gorey. Unfortunate Etiquette will premiere in Washington on November 2.

Share this post


Link to post

I'm back from my jaunt to DC to see the Limon Dance Company at the Kennedy Center. I attended both performances (on the 2nd and 3rd) and here are a few thoughts on what I saw (the programs were the same both nights):

Evening Songs (Jiri Kylian)

The program opened with this brief, lovely piece for seven dancers set to beautiful choral music by Dvorak. While Jiri Kylian created the dance for the Nederlands Dance Theater in 1987 and does not employ the Limon technique in the dance, the tone and style of the piece are so perfectly suited to the Limon dancers that it looks like it could have been created for them. (Someone mentioned this to company director Carla Maxwell during a post-performance Q&A session with the audience and she was thrilled to hear this.) Not much more to say other than this was a nice way to start off the evening.

The Ubiquitous Elephant (Jonathan Riedel)

Company member Jonathan Reidel's The Ubiquitous Elephant had its premiere on the 2nd. To say that this piece represents a real departure for the Limon company is putting it mildly!

The piece is based on a work by Edward Gorey, where a "creature" (according to Maxwell in the post-performance chat) arrives at a family's doorstep and stays for seventeen years. In the Riedel version, the "creature" is now a "guest" (well-played by Francisco Ruvalcaba) who arrives at the doorstep and upsets the delicate routines of a five-member family.

I say this piece is a real departure for the company because there is almost no dancing to it but plenty of broad comedy and Three Stooges-style pratfalls. For a company not known for having a sense of humor, who knew there were so many budding comedians/comediennes in the ranks?

After all was said and done, I was neutral about this piece. The absence of dancing and the broad comedy just weren't my thing. My companion, however, loved it and it was his favorite piece of the four presented. My own feeling is that this was the right dance for the wrong company -- it seemed out of place with the rest of the repertory. The company I could see doing this piece is the Mark Morris troupe -- it would be perfect for their galumphing style.

Suite from A Choreographic Offering (Jose Limon, after Doris Humphrey)

This, to me, was the absolute highlight of both evenings. In her Friday Washington Post review of the Wednesday night performance, Sarah Kaufman thought the dancers looked "tired" and the choreography looked "a bit dated." I would disagree -- vehemently!!! Not only did the dancers look energized and dynamic but I went away both nights thinking that this piece could have been choreographed yesterday. It is that contemporary looking. I was in awe of the magnificent spirals and suspensions and how the dance continually dissolved and reconstituted itself in a variety of different patterns. It was as if I was watching a human kaleidoscope.

I have very little negative to say about this piece other than there were a few moments where the dancers were fighting to maintain unsupported balances. Also, the dance looked a little cramped on the smaller stage of the Terrace Theater. This dance cries out to be performed on an opera house stage. Still, these are minor quibbles. This dance was tremendous.

(Intermission)

Recordare (Remember) (Lar Lubovitch)

The final dance of the evening was another new commission (from Lar Luvovitch.) The dance takes as its theme the Day of the Dead, a Mexican celebration in which the living welcome home the souls of the departed.

In some respects, this was another departure for the company as many of the various tales, in which the living and the dead (in skeleton masks) co-mingle, had strong comedic aspects to them. Unlike the Riedel piece, though, this work has long stretches of dancing which utilize Limon technique.

I had mixed feelings about this dance. I liked the homage to Limon's native Mexico and the production -- set, props, costumes -- were marvelous. Again, the Limon dancers (and particularly Roel Seeber) displayed a real flair for physical comedy and Francisco Ruvalcaba was obviously having a ball as a Death-like figure in a skeleton costume.

Where the dance lost me was in what the individual tales were meant to add up to (if they were meant to add up to anything at all.) All of the sketches were diverting and the time (roughly thirty minutes) flew by. I just didn't know what I was supposed to be taking from it. My companion, who has spent time in Mexico, liked it but he too was perplexed by what it all meant.

All told, though, I had a splendid time both nights. I came away from my trip mildly concerned that the company may be trying to move in too many different directions at once. Even big companies with long repertory seasons (like City Ballet) have trouble finding the right balance between old works and new ones. For a smaller company like the Limon company, it's that much harder to try so many different things at once without sacrificing something (i.e. Doris Humphrey -- the only Humphrey on the bill was Limon's paraphrased tribute to her.)

Still, my overall impression of the company was highly favorable. They are a living rebuke to those who (like Terry Teachout) maintain that modern dancers can only do one thing and that the underlying technique is a dead technique once the founder passes away. On the contrary, the Limon troupe showed that the dancers can perform pieces that utilize other techniques (as in the Kylian dance) and that the Limon technique is vibrant enough that other choreographers (like Lubovitch) can employ it to useful effect.

I'll be seeing them again in February when they are performing at Duke so I'll have another report then. Maybe seeing Recordare again will help me to better understand what it is I saw the first two times!

Share this post


Link to post

Terrific review, miliosr. Thanks!

I suppose companies of every size must weigh the value of new vs. old works, both in terms of satisfying an audience and of giving the dancers opportunities for growth. Another issue with modern dance companies (and to a lesser extent NYCB) is how, when The Master is gone, do they add dances to the repertoire and still maintain their identity as -- in this case -- the Limon company. It's a bit surprising that only one work by Limon was performed. But I'm sure the dancers ate up the opportunity, as you suggest, to give such a different side of themselves in Ubiquitous Elephant.

Anyone else go?

Share this post


Link to post

carbro -- You raise some excellent points in your e-mail and Carla Maxwell addressed many of them during her post-performance Q&A session. When I have some free time, I will try to summarize her remarks at length because she had some thoughtful things to say about running a company once the founders have died.

(In regard to the programming decision to include only one Limon work, Maxwell herself said that this was an out-of-the-ordinary programming decision. She said her usual practice is to include two Limon works on any bill and then fill in the rest of the program with new commissions and/or existing works from the repertory. In this case, I think the absence of a second Limon work was solely a function of having two new works on hand that she wanted to road test.)

Share this post


Link to post

Adding my thanks for the review -- I haven't seen the company in several years, but did see a restaging of Suite from Choreographic Offering here in Seattle last year on a student company at Cornish College. They did an excellent job with the work, but I agree about the size -- this piece needs a large stage!

We're lucky here to see a good share of reconstructions due to our local college programs. Cornish is doing Graham's Diversion of Angels in a couple of weeks (the rehearsals have been just lovely) and it's more Norman dello Joio in February when the University of Washington grad students are doing Limon's There is a Time. They performed Graham's Primitive Mysteries last year and did a stellar job.

Share this post


Link to post

As promised, I'll try to set down the remarks Carla Maxwell made during her post-performance Q&A with the audience on November 2nd. (I didn't take notes so my apologies to Ms. Maxwell if I'm misquoting her.)

The first (and best) question dealt with running a heritage company. Specifically, the person asking the question wanted to know Maxwell's thoughts about preserving a technique and canon of dances without becoming mired in the past.

Maxwell replied that she sees her mission as twofold: preserving the core repertory of the past and commissioning new works. She said that it is important for the dancers to dance the Limon works regularly because they represent the technical and artistic foundation of the company and they provide the dancers with an opportunity to find artistic meaning in the present from works of the past. (I'm paraphrasing here.)

Maxwell also said, though, that it's not enough for the company's dancers to dance the older works -- they need to work with contemporary choreographers and have the experience of having new work built on them. When commissioning new works, she said she looks for works that will sit comfortably with the heritage works. She mentioned that she looks for choreographers who have a strong sense of musicality and who share Limon's "philosophy of theater".

When asked about the importance of music to the Limon company, Maxwell made a number of very interesting comments. She said that Limon considered dancing and music to be indispensible to one another and that music was more than mere accompaniment to a dance. She said that Limon was a very fine musician and that he believed a dancer could never be great unless he or she was "a great musician" (by which I think she meant highly musical.) She continued by saying that Limon "drilled into them" the importance of internalizing the music so that, if there was a problem with an orchestra or recording during a performance, the dancers would be able to continue regardless if there was music or not.

Maxwell talked about how Limon died quite young (64) relative to his contemporaries and how, after his death, the dancers had to figure out all by themselves how to preserve the dances, technique and company as this had never happened before with a modern dance company. She said that it took "14 years" -- 1972 to 1986 -- before they really got a handle on things. (I believe it took 14 years for the Limon Foundation to secure the rights to his works -- they weren't mentioned in his will!)

There were other questions of a more narrow nature. One individual inquired about the Day of the Dead and another inquired about the Jiri Kylian piece. Maxwell was happy to hear from the second questioner that Evening Songs looked like it could have been choreographed for the company. (It wasn't.) She said that the Lar Lubovitch piece Concerto Six Twenty-Two was another piece the company had added to its repertory recently and that they had had positive feedback to that addition as well.

I think I've set down the most memorable comments from the chat. It was well worth sticking around for -- Carla Maxwell was very insightful and had a great deal to say that would be of use to both ballet and modern dance companies wrestling with how to preserve a heritage repertory without becoming a dusty old museum.

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for the excellent report. It sounds like there were serious and informed questioners in the audience -- which made those fine answers possible.

The first (and best) question dealt with running a heritage company. Specifically, the person asking the question wanted to know Maxwell's thoughts about preserving a technique and canon of dances without becoming mired in the past.

This seems to be a problem for so many companies. The ongoing debate here about NYCB in its post-Balanchine decades is an example.

Carla Maxwell appears to have a philosophy of how to balance past and present needs. I attended a performance last year which seemed to me to be too heavily on the side of contemporary and small-scale, and which made me miss the old Limon company, as I remember it. I'm glad the current program has moved back in the direction of balance.

Share this post


Link to post

Many thanks, miliosr, for your detailed review and the report on the Q&A with Carla Maxwell for those of us who couldn't be there.

Share this post


Link to post

bart -- I know what you mean about missing the "old Limon company".

While I enjoyed the performances very much, my preference would have been to program a second Limon dance or a Doris Humphrey piece in place of one of the newer works. As the 60th anniversary of the Limon Dance Company approaches in 2006 and the 100th anniversary of Limon's birth looms on the horizon, I imagine there will be a big push to present the Limon and Humphrey classics in the next few years. At least I hope so!

One thing I came away with from both performances and Carla Maxwell's chat is that the company members really love the works and enjoy performing them. You don't get the sense that they view the older works as dead weights to be performed out of obligation. I follow the Balanchine and Bournonville discussions on this board (too timid to post on those pages) and I'm always intrigued by the back-and-forth about whether some of the followers really believe in the "true faith" as laid down by the masters. You don't get that sense at all from the Limon followers.

I will say that Limon got very, very lucky to have someone like Carla Maxwell on hand at the moment of succession (give or take a few years) because it all could have vanished without a trace.

Share this post


Link to post
I follow the Balanchine and Bournonville discussions on this board (too timid to post on those pages) and I'm always intrigued by the back-and-forth about whether some of the followers really believe in the "true faith" as laid down by the masters.

I hope you'll join those other discussions. You have much to add, I'm certain.

Share this post


Link to post

This is slightly off-topic but I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison dance program's fall faculty concert last night at which the students performed an excerpt from Jose Limon's A Choreographic Offering. Longtime Limon company dancer and current artistic associate Nina Watt, who is a visiting professor this semester, did the staging.

I thought the students performed the piece admirably. While they lacked the kinetic power and sheer breakneck speed of the Limon dancers, they managed to convey the inherent beauty of the dance without seeming overmatched.

At the post-performance reception, I had hoped to congratulate Nina Watt on the staging. Unfortunately for me, she was busy chatting with various well wishers most of the time so I never got an opportunity to speak with her. Luckily, I spotted a familiar looking young man standing nearby so I went up to him and introduced myself. As I suspected, it was Raphael Boumaila from the Limon company. He was in town for the performance.

We had a fun chat about various Limon-related things. He is just a super nice, polite guy. I think he was surprised that there was someone at the reception who knew a lot about Limon!

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...