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Limon Centennial

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I notice that the Limon Dance Company is performing an all-Limon program at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in January.


The Traitor -- a response to McCarthyism, set to a score by Gunther Schuller -- sounds particularly interesting.

We have a number of Ballet Talk posters in Washington, so I hope we'll get some reviews.

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Slightly off-topic -- miliosr, I'm sorry to hear that you were disapponted in the Lubovitch show. I've had such mixed responses to his work. Some things, like North Star or Concerto Six Twenty-Two, really seem like seminal works -- they illustrate a particular time and a particular approach to dance, while others just leave me cold. We see them here in February -- could you tell us please what you saw them dance?

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bart I considered travelling to DC for Limon Dance Company's performance at the Kennedy Center in January on the theory that:

favorite company + favorite city = good time

BUT, I decided against it once I saw what the repertory would be -- Suite from a Choreographic Offering, The Traitor and Psalm. While I love the Suite from a Choreographic Offering, The Traitor is a dark and despairing work which I admire more than I actually like. I have not had the opportunity to see Psalm but I've heard mixed things about it -- too "heavy" and too long (even though the company cut the original running time of an hour (!) in half.) So, the thought of watching two works with angst-ridden protagonists (The Traitor, Psalm) on one bill tipped my decision to the negative. Now, if Carla Maxwell had programmed Limon's Dances for Isadora instead of Psalm, then I would have gone. (Of course, then you would have a bill where two of the dances involve some kind of death by strangulation. If they replaced Suite from A Choreographic Offering with The Moor's Pavane, they would actually have three dances involving strangulation on one bill!)

sandik -- As someone who loves Lubovitch's Concerto Six Twenty-Two, I was SO looking forward to this company's performance and they disappointed me terribly. This was the bill (no Concerto):

Dvorak Serenade (2007)

Jangle (2008)

Men's Stories (2000)

The problem as I saw it was this -- these works (all from this decade) were so similar in tone (which was frenetic) that it felt like they were one long work with costume and music changes. Concerto Six Twenty-Two proved that Lubovitch could juxtapose fast and slow, joyous and bittersweet. But here, everything -- even the slowed down sections -- came across as frenzied and in-your-face. (Men's Stories (in particular) was an absolute trial at 45 minutes+ in length. I would have to put it in the running with Susanne Linke's Extreme Beauty and Alwin Nikolais' Tent as the most pretentious twaddle I've ever had the displeasure to see on a stage.)

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If they replaced Suite from A Choreographic Offering with The Moor's Pavane, they would actually have three dances involving strangulation on one bill!

Oh my.

Still, you never know. Directors use all kinds of themes for program planning now.

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An evening consisting of accidental strangulation (Isadora Duncan), suicidal strangulation (Judas Iscariot) and homicidal strangulation (Desdemona) would probably be a bit much but the sheer morbidity of such a "theme" night would be a brutal riposte to all those pretentious theme nights dance companies indulge in (the New York City Ballet being a prime offender.)

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An evening consisting of accidental strangulation (Isadora Duncan), suicidal strangulation (Judas Iscariot) and homicidal strangulation (Desdemona) would probably be a bit much but the sheer morbidity of such a "theme" night would be a brutal riposte to all those pretentious theme nights dance companies indulge in (the New York City Ballet being a prime offender.)

Don't get me started on "theme programs" -- I understand their appeal to marketing departments, but they can make for some very strange combinations.

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I would love to see a 'Final Flowering' Limon bill consisting of some combination of The Unsung (1970), Dances For Isadora (1971), Waldstein Sonata (1971), Orfeo (1972) and Carlota (1972). Alas, I doubt I'll ever get to see that bill even though all five works are completely stageable.

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Aw, congratulations to the Limon Dance Foundation for receiving a 2008 National Medal of Arts -- what a nice way to conclude the centennial year!

And congrats to the other 2008 recipients:

Olivia de Havilland, actress, Paris, France

Fisk Jubilee Singers, choral ensemble, Nashville, TN

Ford's Theatre Society, theater and museum, Washington, DC

Hank Jones, jazz musician, New York, NY

Stan Lee, comic book writer, producer, Los Angeles, CA

Jesus Moroles, sculptor, Rockport, TX

The Presser Foundation, music patron, Haverford, PA

The Sherman Brothers, songwriting team, Los Angeles, CA and London, England

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In today's New York Times, Claudia La Rocco reviews Program A (Anna Sokolow's Rooms and Clay Taliaferro's Into My Heart's House) from the Limon company's current stand at the Joyce.

Her mixed-to-negative review gets at something I raised earlier in this thread -- why make Rooms the centerpiece of a season coinciding with what would have been Jose Limon's 100th birthday instead of presenting wall-to-wall Limon dances? She also raises the related question of whether or not the company knows what it wants to be 36 years after Limon's death.

Based on the rep I've seen since 2004, here are the different trends fighting for prominence at Limon:

1) Preserving and presenting the works of Jose Limon

2) Preserving and presenting the works of Doris Humphrey

3) Preserving and presenting works from the Silver Age (?) of the classical modern dance -- Post-World War II to early 1960s (including works by Donald McKayle, Daniel Nagrin and Anna Sokolow)

4) Preserving and presenting works from the post-Judson Theater international contemporary dance repertory (including works by Jiri Kylian and Lar Lubovitch)

5) Commissioning new works (including works by Susanne Linke, Lar Lubovitch and Jonathan Reidel)

It's hard to read this list and not come to the conclusion that a smaller company like Limon may be trying to move in too many directions at once. This is especially true when you consider that the new works have been mediocre-to-bad and have the added impact of "crowding out" Limon and Humphrey works from repertory bills.

Any thoughts? (Is anyone still reading this thread? Am I just conversing with myself??)

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Unfortunately, this is the question that the company has been grappling with ever since Limon died. The dance world lost JL realtively early -- well before any other the major ballet choreographers whose works have now passed into various forms of trusts. In some ways, representatives of the other artists whose deaths came after Limon's learned from the difficulties that group had with defining themselves, their mission and their resources.

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Thanks for replying sandik.

I feel churlish regarding what I'm about to write but I wonder if Limon is almost being too ambitious with their goals. For a chamber-sized company that (a) isn't all that much bigger in 2008 than it was at the founding in 1946 and (b) is primarily a touring company which doesn't perform for long stretches at one theater in one city, I have to ask whether or not their attempts to be all-things-to-all-people just ends up blurring their identity. I don't know . . . but I do think the La Rocco review raises some thoughtful questions about how much a small(er) company can take on before the core identity starts to blur.

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well, the problem is, if they don't ever produce any new choreography, then they're just a museum... ? ... but... I guess I'd rather they saw their role in providing new choreography more as providing a laboratory or workshop for emerging choreographers, with a small production budget, than in commissioning big new pieces to present.... couldn't their repertory of Humphrey & Limon sustain the company in larger productions? I mean, Ailey seems to draw strength from Revelations over & over again... ballet companies do Swan Lake & Nutcracker ... the Limon company has beautiful dancers, doesn't the world want to see this work any more? It seems like trying to be options 3 & 4 is spreading themselves a little thin... though perhaps including the occasional work would be okay. Apologies for nattering... and who am I to make suggestions... but.. I was just as disturbed when Graham did Susan Stroman... there's this feeling that the company is straying from it's soul.

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Thinking out loud here . . .

I don't mind commissioning new works IF they (a) reinforce the underlying technique, style and philosophy, and (b) don't "crowd out" the core repertory. Of the three new works (Susanne Linke's Extreme Beauty [2004], Lar Lubovitch's Recordare [2005] and Jonathan Reidel's The Ubiquitous Elephant [2005]) I've seen since I started going regularly to see Limon in 2004, none has accomplished (a) but all have contributed to (b). Since summer of 2004, I've seen four separate rep programs -- none of which has contained a Doris Humphrey piece. Doesn't the Limon company have a greater responsibility toward preserving the works Humphrey made for the company between 1946 and 1958 than it does in presenting news works which seem alien to the core ethos and are quickly abandoned?

Limon's works are faring better in rep than Humphrey's are but I have to wonder why Carla Maxwell would start the season in New York with a bill consisting of a despairing Anna Sokolow piece (whose ethos was very different from Limon's) and a new work by former Limon dancer Clay Taliaferro (who is a gifted performer and teacher but is not know for his choreography.) Our old friend Oberon wrote a nice review of the all-Limon Program B on his blog in which he said the Limon pieces weren't museum pieces at all. But if you lead with the Sokolow/Taliaferro Program A, it's small wonder that a reviewer might wonder if the company is less-than-confident in the founder's work. And, if reviewers are only going to the first night, then the impression left may be similar to the one left with Claudia La Rocco.

I don't know . . . I guess the old saying is true that you can chase after failure just as much as you can chase after success.

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