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Limon - Moving into the Future - a dance documentary by Evann Siebens

by Robert Abrams
July 1, 2004
Channel 13
450 West 33rd Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 560-2888

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307 W. 38th Street, Suite 1105
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www.limon.org

Limon - Moving into the Future - a dance documentary by Evann Siebens

Robert Abrams
July 1, 2004

Dance on film is a difficult undertaking because as accurate as the camera is, it also flattens as it presents. When a skillful editor takes on this challenge, the dance can be given new life even as it is being presented. Evann Siebens, with editing by Mathieu Borysevicz, proved herself to be a skillful director and filmmaker on several levels in her documentary of Jose Limon and his work.

This film projects filmed performance edited to give the work life and immediacy. This filmed performance brackets an inside view of the Limon Company working with its alumni to preserve and renew several dances choreographed by Jose Limon. The curtain is also pulled back on the rehearsal process for two newly commissioned works. As such, the film makes good use of Heidegger's dual states of knowing.

I thought this film, as a documentary, was appealing and would be especially so to fans of Limon. It was revealing and informative both in the spoken commentary by many former and current members of the Limon Company as well as in the images paired with the commentary. The only way I could see to improve this part of the film would be to release it on a DVD with complete versions of the dances being discussed (preferably shot from multiple angles and offered both in a straight long shot and with Ms. Siebens' and Mr. Borysevicz's dynamic cutting). This would allow the viewer to take command of their own learning, moving back and forth from commentary to finished product as needed.

While this film is presented as a documentary, there were a number of sections where Ms. Siebens and Mr. Borysevicz created editing that was nothing short of rapturous. These included a sequence near the beginning of the film where they cut together segments from several Limon dances with very sharp pacing. The other section was a rehearsal warm-up sequence at Jacob's Pillow. I really liked the fluid matching of images. For an all too brief minute, Ms. Siebens transcended documentary and created art that could stand on its own. She should seriously consider going back to this segment to expand it into its own film. Having seen this sequence, I think the idea of crafting rehearsal footage into a dance of its own is very appealing. Such a "dance" could have never been conceived at the time it was enacted. Film, despite its linearity, allows the filmmaker to refashion time. Through such refashioning, the filmmaker can avoid the potential flatness of the proscenium long shot by finding a truth that can only emerge from the lens. I suspect that she may already have the footage necessary to let such a truth emerge.

You know a documentary has been successful as education (as opposed to its success as a film) if you can come away with some important idea. The one idea that has stayed with me most powerfully was a comment by a company member that Jose Limon drew from the dancers when he choreographed, rather than putting a piece on the dancers. So often performance dancers (i.e. ballet or modern dancers) refer to choreography as being choreographed on the dancers. It was refreshing to learn that a choreographer of clear talent such as Limon had a cooperative and dynamic relationship with his company as he created his art.

One of the company members described Jose Limon's work as a moving painting. Limon - Moving into the Future aptly brought that painting to life, both as a film and as an education.

This film will next air on PBS - WNET/Channel 13 in the New York City area as part of the REEL New York Series on July 5, 2004 at 12:30 am.

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