Performing Arts: Dance
June 4, 2019
The Limon Dance Company presented four works at the Joyce this week, in a well-curated program that included Limon masterworks alongside new works. This simple formula satisfies everyone who wants to see dancers embody their history but also challenged in new and different ways.

Artistic director Colin Connor’s The Weather in the Room opened the program with an “intergenerational” cast that included veteran dancers and teachers Miki Ohara and Stephen Pier (formerly with Martha Graham and Limon companies, respectively). Dressed in casual cocktail wear by Krista Dowson, they faced each other and interacted with big arm gestures, spiraling spines, and dynamic drops (clearly related to Limon’s technique) while evoking a wide range of emotions that belong to a couple that has weathered years of being together. Three young couples walk, sometimes standing still and observing, sometimes dancing around them with an energy that suggests the older couple’s past is still within them.

There are few dance masterpieces with as powerful a narrative and dramatic force distilled to its heart-breaking essence as Limon’s The Moor’s Pavane (1949). Based on Shakespeare’s Othello, a cast of four dancers moves between the public and private spheres, building a tale of jealously, deception and cruelty that methodically brings us to its horrific conclusion. Jacqueline Bulnes as His Friend’s Wife and Savannah Spratt as The Moor’s Wife were both charming and displayed their differences in character through the bend of the torsos: Spratt’s extreme range of her head conveyed Desdemona’s delicate innocence to the extreme, while Bulnes expressed both Emilia’s spunk and grief with her whole being. Mark Willis was too lightweight as The Moor; each gesture needed to rise more from deep inside his core, and he could have been heavier and more grounded in his movements. Jesse Obremski was effective as a sly and compelling Iago.

Francesca Harper’s Radical Beasts in the Forest of Possibilities” (world premiere), created in collaboration with the dancers, showed how work created on the dancers themselves gives them an opportunity to shine. A young Asian woman with bangs killed it with a dynamic and forceful swirling solo; others clearly enjoyed the freedom of this kind of work. Best of all, the music composed by Nona Hendryx (on piano and computer) was played live by her.

“Psalm” (1967) excerpts are always an appropriately sweeping and grand finale to any Limon evenings. The fervor of the music and dancing, especially by The Just Man, danced by David Glista, has an inevitably inspirational feel. Yet this staging seemed a bit muted, perhaps by the small size of the Joyce stage. Having seen it recently with live orchestra, I missed the power of the music propelling the dancers’ fervor. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see this kind of drama and emotion onstage, when so much of today’s contemporary choreographer lacks gut-felt force and unabashed humanity that is essential in Limon’s work.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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