Dance Review: 'Limón Dance Company'

at the Joyce Theatre

Reviewed by Lisa Jo Sagolla

June 21, 2012


Photo by Rosalie O'Connor
"Come With Me"
Celebrating its 65th anniversary, the Limón Dance Company is offering a program of superb renditions of four modern dance works created over a range of 70 years.  Under the artistic direction of Carla Maxwell, the dancers excel at embodying the works’ contrasting choreographic styles. They display deep understanding of the principles governing the performance of the historical pieces by José Limón and Jiri Kylián, and show fierce commitment to making the most of the program’s premiere work, a choreographic trifle by Rodrigo Pederneiras.

Set to a sublime commissioned score by jazz artist Paquito D’Rivera, Pederneiras’ upbeat ensemble piece, “Come With Me,” looks like it was created by a choreographer without upper limbs.  Most of the time the dancers move just their legs and their arms are hanging lifelessly at their sides. Steps are sometimes embellished with a head action, but only infrequently with an arm or small hand gesture. The concept quickly grows tiresome, especially as it is reinforced by Maria Luiza Magalhaes’s costumes. Magalhaes heightens the unbalanced effect of the bottom-heavy choreography with a black-on-top, color-on-the-bottom design scheme. The men wearing black shirts and colorful floral-print pants, the women are in black dresses with bright-colored underskirts.

While there are some isolated bits of snazzy footwork—quick jumps, sharp coupés, darting leaps that feel inspired by Irish step dancing—much of the piece consists of variations on walking. The overall experience is a joy nonetheless, as the dancers are exciting movers and the richly textured jazz music is so interesting that it commands your full attention. However, the choreography is unnecessary. 
   
Costumed like a man with a woman’s hairdo, soloist Kathryn Alter gives appropriately androgynous interpretation to Limón’s “Chaconne,” a 1942 solo that employs both strength and softness in its formal blend of modern, balletic, and Spanish dancing.  The work’s choreography grounds its stylistic fusion in the connections and complementary aspects of the different genres, unlike postmodern almagams in which fusion often means jarring juxtapositions. 

Rounding out the program’s deliciously wide aesthetic spectrum are Jiri Kylián’s stark “La Cathédrale Engloutie” and a powerful performance of Limón’s highly expressionistic 1956 narrative piece “The Emperor Jones,” loosely based on the Eugene O’Neill play about a chain-gang escapee who turns into a vicious ruler.  Premiered in 1975, Kylián’s ingenious work consists largely of duets in which one dancer’s movement impulses, body shapes, and energies are taken on by the other, conjuring a flowing, organic inter-relationship. Set mainly to the sounds of ocean waves with no musical reference points, the piece requires fine-tuned kinesthetic skill and sensitivity, which the Limón dancers exhibit in spades. 

Presented by José Limón Dance Foundation, Inc., in association with the Joyce Theater Foundation, at the Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Ave., NYC. June 19-24. Tues.-Wed., 7:30; Thurs-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 and 7:30 p.m. (212) 242-0800 or www.joyce.org
 

 
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