Limón Dance Company - The Unsung, Extreme Beauty, Concerto Six Twenty-Two
The Joyce Theatre
New York, NY
Jennifer E. Wesnousky
October 2, 2004
At The Joyce Theater on October 2nd, The Limón Dance Company only performed the three eclectic pieces which currently comprise their "Program A". Judging from the manner in which the diversity of these pieces successfully transports the viewer to totally different places in each act, their "Program B," performed at alternative performances, or any other endeavor the company might undertake, would surely be a completely different and delightful experience.
A circle of seven bare-torsoed men stomp rhythmically, their hands flared. As they move into linear formations, their movements mirror one another. This is the evening's first number, The Unsung. The title seems appropriate, for despite the absence of music during the approximately twenty-minute segment, the onstage presence of the all-male cast suffices. Described in the program as a "…paean to the heroic defenders of the American patrimony," Limón's multi-dimensional choreography captivatingly pays tribute to the various facets of the existence of some American Indian tribes. We are sometimes treated to a glimpse of the buckskin clad men on the prowl as they fly through the air as if carrying bows and arrows, in search of some beast to hunt. At other moments, they appear to become the beasts themselves. One soloist, his arms outstretched as if poised to engage in battle, falls down once and again as if in defeat. In its visual absence, we ask ourselves against which foe this warrior is determined to remain resilient.
As stunning thematically as it is visually, Extreme Beauty explores the battle against an unseen enemy as well. Bedecked in gothic black and crimson frocks, an all-female chorus creeps reluctantly forth with vacant countenances, seeming to move in spite of themselves as if possessed by some despicable force. As György Kurtag and Salvatore Sciarrino's music calls to mind some horror film's score, one dancer bats furiously at the air around her face as if trying to rid herself of this invisible pestilence. Even as their motions become more complex, their movement appears totally involuntary until the charismatic Kristen Foote (whose presence steals every scene in which she appears) breaks this mold by taunting and poking fun at her zombie-like counterparts. At this point, the women's onstage death is symbolically enacted as they dress one another in angelic white, hoop-skirted ensembles in which they appear to float. However, in contrast to this angelic white, each girl has a crimson high-heeled pump stuck hat-like upon her head. This visual representation of the priorly undefined bane, the virgin-slut paradox which choreographer Susanne Link must feel looms ominously over society's female heads, is affirmed as Ms. Foote slithers snake-like in a provocative little black dress reminiscent of the stereotypical prostitute. As she may be construed as the devil, the piece strives to remind us of the extent to which this paradoxical power can lead to female death or death in life.
And yet, the company could not appear more alive than in their premiere of Concerto Six Twenty-Two, which departs drastically from the first two acts. Here we are treated to the entire cast as they skip gaily together across the stage, evoking an immediate sprinkling of laughter among audience members the moment the curtain opens. While this is the evening's most classical piece, the balletic movement is infused with the steps and expressions of children who march, skip and stride across the playground. While Anne C. de Velder's gorgeous cream and white costumes add to the feeling of playful innocence which the piece exudes, it is the dancers' faces which continually captivate the audience. As the joy which bubbles forth frothily from Roxane D'Orleans Juste's face is undoubtedly genuine, it is hard to believe that this is the same standout performer who sent uncomfortable jolts through the audience's collective stomach with the extent to which she appeared, just moments earlier, to be irrevocably possessed.
To state that the Limón Dance Company is technically brilliant seems like a given. After all, such can be said about virtually every New York City dance company which performs at prestigious venues such as The Joyce Theater. However, it is the company's expressive versatility which sets it apart. While the audience feels increasingly familiar with and fond of the dancers as they reappear in the evening's final number, their achievement lies in the extent to which they always appear totally in the moment while conveying, in each piece, completely different moods and tales.
Presented by: JOSÉ LIMÓN DANCE FOUNDATION, INC. in association with THE JOYCE THEATER FOUNDATION, INC.
Founders: José Limón and Doris Humphrey
Artistic Director: Carla Maxwell
Artistic Mentor: Donald McKayle
Artistic Associates: Roxane D'Orleans Juste and Nina Watt
Music Director: David Lamarche
The Company: Kathryn Alter, Raphaël Boumaïla, Kurt Douglas, Kristen Foote, Roxane D'Orleans Juste, Ryoko Kudo, Brenna Monroe-Cook, Robert Regala, Jonathan Riedel, Francisco Ruvalcaba, Charles Scott, Roel Seeber, Ruping Wang
Musicians: Sarah Adams, Joe Gottesman, David Lamarche, Ronald Oakland, Amy Ralske, Robin Zeh
Executive Director: Randal Fippinger