BWW Reviews: Jose Limon Dance Company Still Inspires at Baruch Performing Arts After 67 Years
In 2008, the Jose Limon Dance Foundation was awarded our country's highest honor for artistic excellence, the National Medal of Arts. Rightly so, for this historic company is world renowned for adding bricks and mortar to the foundation of American modern dance. Under the guidance of his mentor, Doris Humphrey, Limon founded the Jose Limon Dance Company in 1946, refining his vision of theatrical modern dance for a post World War II audience that had lived through the great depression and witnessed Europe's devastation. Long after Limon's death, with the pioneering idea that a company can continue without its founder, artistic director Carla Maxwell has safe guarded and preserved his works, giving us the opportunity to see and appreciate them in 2013. I'm glad to report that 67 years later the company is still entertaining, inspiring and respected by a wide range of audiences.
Opening the evening was Mazurkas, receiving its first performance in 20 years. The dance, Limon's tribute to the heroic spirit of Poland's people after visiting the country in 1957, was first presented on August 15, 1958, at the Connecticut American Dance Festival. In the upstage corner of the stage, live pianist Vanessa Perez gracefully accompanied the dancers-who would often turn and bow to her before or after she played the piano--with a series of Opus' by Frederic Chopin. Although the movement vocabulary is classic (coming from ballet) and shape oriented, the dancers' actual breath initiates the suspension and release of their bodies, literally circulating chi and flow throughout their highly controlled movements. This breath, along with an aliveness of expression on the dancers' faces, makes Limon's mid twentieth century choreography relevant and gives a sense of timelessness to the work. Without use of sets and props, Mazurkas has a way of weaving in and out of two places: one social, described in court dance formations and style; the other more private, involving solos and duets. We witness these solos and duets as if we were flies on the wall, seen almost through a window and reminding us of personal journeys, either arduous or joyful. I noted and appreciated the simplicity and beauty of the women's cream colored dresses and the men's black pants and white shirts, all of which contributed to the sense of timelessness which this dance so beautifully implies.