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Limón Lives Forever

Cutler Bay (South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center)
11/19/2016 -  
José Limón (Vivaldi): Concerto Grosso
José Limón (Lloyd): Dialogues
Colin Connor (Glass): Corvidae
José Limón (Purcell): The Moor’s Pavane
Kate Weare (Biber): Night Light

Kathryn Alter, Bradley Beakes, Leon Cobb, Elise Drew Leon, Kristen Foote, David Glista, Ross Katen, Logan Frances Kruger, Alex McBride, Brenna Monroe-Cook, Jesse Obremski, Savannah Spratt, Mark Willis
Keiko Voltaire, Colin Connor, Paula Lawrence, Fritz Masten (Costume Design), Christopher Chambers, DK Kroth, Steve Woods, Clifton Taylor (Lighting Design)

The Moor’s Pavane (© Beatriz Schiller)

There is something particularly satisfying about attending a dance performance of a company founded by one of the great 20th century choreographers: among them George Balanchine (New York City Ballet), Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey or José Limón. There is a sense of reaching back in history as we examine how their works are kept alive and are used explore new methods of dance even if they do not even seem to have even a slight flavor of their companies’ founders’ styles.

At this performance the works of Limón were presented with impeccable precision by a group of dancers with fresh enthusiasm. Concerto Grosso was a perfect opening, a plotless piece exploring the rhythm, grace and beauty of dancers. This is a work of pure joy that gives an audience tremendous warmth and happiness. Kathryn Alter, Elise Drew Leon and Jesse Obremski basked in the beauty of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Minor as they generously shared various points of view.

This was followed by Dialogues, a narrative ballet that explores how the diplomacy of adversaries changes in different eras. The first half was clear as it lovingly examined a piece of history, that of the meeting between Cortés and Montezuma. It was direct, touching and quite beautiful. Had one not read the program notes in advance, it seems unlikely the intent of the rest could have been deciphered. Mark Willis gave a commanding performance as both The Emperor and The President but Ross Katen felt less secure in the more dramatically challenging roles of The Captain and the Archduke. Still a second exposure would probably offer greater appreciation.

The third Limón work on the program was his most famous, The Moor’s Pavane. I had only seen this work on video (television and Youtube), but until it is seen in a live performance this great work is not fully realized. A retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello concentrating on the destructive power of jealousy. Somehow the handkerchief, which many find to be one of the play’s weaknesses, becomes central here as we observe how something so trivial takes on a savage influence. These characters are tied closely as we see in the courtly dance using pieces from works by Henry Purcell. Mark Willis made a superlative Othello, loving arrogant and ultimately murderous. The Iago of Jesse Obrenski never skimped on beautiful form as he created relished the demise of his friend. Logan Frances Kruger projected the absolute truth of Desdemona’s raw true love for her husband. When Desdemona becomes confused by Othello’s cruel behavior, Kruger conveys unbearable pain. But best of all is Kathryn Alter’s Emilia who is at first a willing partner in her husband’s treachery, but cannot hide her grief upon realizing she has been a part of such cruelty. This ballet is going on 70 years old; it is fully apparent that it will never date.

The other works on the program, Colin Connor’s Corvidae and Kate Weare’s Night Light do not share the depth of Limón though these are works of pure dance with no narrative. Corvidae is performed to the music of Phillip Glass and offers none of the ostentatious boredom that Twyla Tharp gave to Glass’s work for In the Upper Room. Corvidae has no desire to shout. And though Kate Weare’s Night Light seems vague in purpose, it gives its dancers plenty of opportunity to explore the potential of theatre; it is also never dull.

This was a particularly satisfying evening and a much needed reminder of Limón and how his influence must continue in order to inspire contemporary choreographers.

Jeff Haller



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