BWW Reviews: Limon Dance Company at The Joyce Theater
What does a dance company do when its founder and visionary dies? While some leave with succession plans in place, this question still troubles many prominent dance companies. While they might chose to only perform their namesake's original works, they risk being labeled as irrelevant. If the company chooses to continue to perform new work, they must walk the tightrope of finding choreography that is congruent with the company's repertoire but also new and interesting.
Jose Limón was undeniably an important figure in the history of modern dance. He founded the Limón Dance Company in 1946 and created over 70 works. Limón's legacy is the Limón technique, which focuses on the importance of breath as well as the interplay between weight and weightlessness. Limón technique is still taught today and is an important part of the modern dance cannon.
In The Limón Dance Company's current season at The Joyce Theater, they performed two works by Limón himself, Mazurkas and Psalm. Mazurkas was a playful and fun work that poked fun at ballet. Jokes started small with a dancer performing a beautiful classical leap with pointed toes and arms in fifth en haut but with hands flexed outward. Limón also weaves in larger comments such as when a group of male dancers perform a powerful leap while punching the sky serving as a comment on ballet's gender norms. Mazurkas featured live music resulting in a true collaboration between the pianist and the dancers. Psalm took a contrasting in tone by focusing on religion-both an individual's struggle with faith and herd mentality that can be present in organized religion. While Psalm did not provide any unique insights into this subject and bordered on cliché (a male dancer is lifted into the shape of a cross near the end), it served as an excellent vehicle for the dancers' skills and artistry. Both pieces were very enjoyable to watch.
The rest of the program consisted of two world premieres, Nocturne for the Ancestors by Sean Curran and She Who Carries the Sky by Diane McIntyre. Nocturne for Ancestors felt like an unfinished thought. It began by fusing traditional Indian hand gestures with modern western movements but never became anything special. While Nocturne for Ancestors didn't stand out, She Who Carries the Sky actively detracted from the evening. She Who Carries the Sky follows a listless female dancer accompanied by African drums, Native American flutes, and recorded rain. The effect is intended to evoke a feeling of wise ancestors but is an actually quite offensive and reminiscent of primitivism. Worse still, the movement was boring and the pacing was slow.
While Limón's own works showed off The Limón Dance Company's talents, the more contemporary works fell flat. Perhaps they would be more successful by tapping choreographic talent within the company - many other dance companies have found talent this way. If The Limón Dance Company does not figure out how to incorporate new works successfully into their repertoire, than they would be better served to only perform their founder's original pieces.
Photo by Beatriz Schiller.