Performing Arts: Dance
October 30, 2015
The José Limón International Dance Festival is a fitting celebration for the one of the first American modern dance companies to tour Europe and South America. The Limón Company continues into its 70th year returning the sentiment. Situating its celebration at the Joyce with guests from the Royal Danish Ballet, Program B exalted Limón the contemporary.

The Unsung cleansed palates of expectations, opening with a late work from 1970. Its silence embraces progressivism of its day. Incidental body percussion composes a score of stomps, tuning the eye to spatial sophistication. The refrain of a circle peels away into floor-bound sculptures, morphing curves into corners that break circles into squares whose vectors overlap. Using canon in facings, simple sequences unfold like cell division.

Solos, essentially modern dance variations, are crafted with not hope, but expectation of accuracy. Mark Willis pries open into arches of increasing altitudes, expanding the notion of capability with accumulations starting at already high levels of exertion. Alternately, Kurt Douglas’ strictly repeated stag jumps stretch the present into our awareness of inhabiting it.

Eleven shirtless men territorially slamming into ground can read as a landscape of masculinity, yet there is a feminine side of prances and face-framing gestures. Ross Katen is hoisted and draped over two torsos as though having just washed up on shore. The supporters, wide-eyed, pivotally balance force and grace. Over the prideful male impulse is the childlike urge to show.

1966’s The Winged finds its thrust in cycles. Ending as it begins, a three-part canon places currents within currents that trigger visual memory. In subsections “Feast of Harpies” and “Sphinx,” men’s heads peer from the wings on the floor. In the first facing down, then up, using form on nature’s terms.

Multiple sections draw not on birds for metaphors, but wings themselves, democratizing choreographic inspiration. Douglas portrays Pegasus with a grounded stride and lofty athleticism. Katen teaches Elise Leon to fly via “Borrowed Wings,” fluttering hands spawning inventive partnering that revels in unstable points of contact. He and Willis, symmetrically choreographed, become a pair of wings themselves.

Jon Magnussen was commissioned by the Juilliard School to score the silent piece in 1995. The music cooperates at face value, tagging along with no point of view and post-hoc metre constricting movement, rhythmically approaching life’s spontaneity, to counts.

Dramatically sandwiched, 1949’s The Moor’s Pavane was not out of place. Beginning with similar spatial ideas, a conceptual through-line in Limón’s oeuvre surfaced. While serving narrative, Limón’s couplings flow logically. Double duets in break into one at a time, highlighting voyeuristic body languages. Accord finds unison movement partnering itself; in conflict, partnering purposefully fails, as Durell Comedy clings his legs to Francisco Ruvalcaba, whose resistance leaves Comedy to fall. From formally sequenced textures, the Moore’s ultimate beating of his wife reads as gestural partnering.

Limón accomplishes this via employing the entire body in his performing aesthetic. Movement is crafted with emotion, not a face. Present in three pieces spanning twenty years, such a habit speaks to Limón’s spiritual connection to movement as privilege of the human body.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews

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