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Limón Dance Company Celebrates the 100th Birthday of José Limón
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Limón Dance Company Celebrates the 100th Birthday of José Limón

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Limón Dance Company
Celebrating the 100th Birthday of José Limón
The Joyce Theater

Suite from a Choreographic Offering
The Traitor
The Moor’s Pavane

José Limón and Doris Humphrey, Founders
Carla Maxwell, Artistic Director
Donald McKayle, Artistic Mentor
Roxane D’Orléans Juste, Associate Artistic Director
Lisa Barnes, Interim Executive Director

Guest Artists: John Beasant III and Dante Puleio

The Company:
Kathryn Alter, Raphaël Boumaïla, Katie Diamond
Kurt Douglas, Daniel Fetecua Soto, Kristen Foote
Jonathan Frederickson, Roxane D’Orléans Juste, Ryoko Kudo
Ashley Lindsey, Ryan Mason, Francisco Ruvalcaba, Ruping Wang

Publicity: Audrey Ross

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 5, 2008

Doris Humphrey, a founder of American modern dance, performed for the Humphrey-Weidman Company between 1928 and 1944. José Limón was a performer with this Company, and, eventually, Ms. Humphrey became his Artistic Director in 1946 and created new works for him, as well. Carla Maxwell joined the Limón Dance Company in 1965 and was soon a Principal dancer and then Artistic Director. Ms. Maxwell danced many major roles with the Company and teaches internationally. The Limón Dance Company is now in its 61st year and is committed to balancing classic modern dance works with contemporary commissioned works. Mr. Limón was known for dramatic choreography and masculine dancing. The Company is celebrating Limón’s 100th birthday (January 12, 1908) and his genius as a Choreographer and Pioneer in Modern Dance. The Company has just been awarded the National Medal of Arts. (Company Notes).

Suite from a Choreographic Offering (1964): Choreography by José Limón, Music by Johann Sebastian Bach, “A Musical Offering”, Staging and Direction by Carla Maxwell, Costumes by Marion Williams, Lighting Design by Steve Woods, executed by Joshua Rose, Performed by Katie Diamond (Solo), Ruping Wang (Solo), and the Company. This work, commissioned by the American Dance Festival, is Limón’s tribute to his Company’s Co-Founder, Doris Humphrey. Limón draws upon 14 of Humphrey’s works, synthesizes the motion, and sets the dance to Bach’s “A Musical Offering”. What could be more generous or a finer tribute?

The dancers create space with their arms, like circular feelings, and the motion is seamlessly elegant. Carla Maxwell’s staging of this 1964 work is detailed, but allowing for individuality of dance. There’s an introductory Dance for Eleven, Solo with Four, two Solos, a Quartet, a Duet, and a Dance for Ten as a finale. Katie Diamond’s solo is rapturous, as is Ruping Wang’s. The dancers in Marion Williams’ pink and purple costumes bring joy to the stage, as Limón’s “Offering” is now an “Offering” to him, on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

The Traitor (1954): Choreography by José Limón, Music by Gunther Schuller, “Symphony for Brass and Percussion”, Staging and Direction by Clay Taliaferro, Costumes by Pauline Lawrence Limón, Costume Consultant: Sarah Timberlake, Set Design by Paul Trauvetter, Lighting Design by Steve Woods, executed by Joshua Rose, Performed by Jonathan Frederickson as The Leader, Raphaël Boumaïla, Dante Puleio, Daniel Fetecua Soto, Ryan Mason, Ashley Lindsay, and John Beasant III.

This all-male ensemble of eight performs a work that’s more than one-half century old. Francisco Ruvalcaba portrays Judas, while Jonathan Frederickson is Christ. The set design and costumes are stark and dark, with contemporary, atonal music by Schuller that drives the angular choreography. At one point this work seemed evocative of Fokine’s 1911 ballet, Petrouchka, with the limp torso of the sorrowful puppet. There could have been a metaphor here, of biblical proportions, but Limón may have just used a similar image. The mock violence has dramatic depth, in slow motion, and the use of the white cloth was effective in creating a “table” for, it seemed, “The Last Supper”.

The Moor’s Pavane (1949): Choreography by José Limón, Music by Henry Purcell, arr. By Simon Sadoff, Direction by Carla Maxwell, Costume Design by Pauline Lawrence, Lighting Design by Steve Woods, executed by Joshua Rose, Performed by Francisco Ruvalcaba, Jonathan Frederickson, Ryoko Kudo, and Roxane D’Orléans Juste. It seemed odd to close a Tribute Program with a work for only four dancers, and one that is subdued. Usually such programs end with a full-company dynamic presentation. However, four dancers: The Moor in deep red, His Friend in gold, His Friend’s Wife in orange, and The Moor’s Wife in white, compensate with visual magnetism for largesse of the ensemble. Henry Purcell’s score enhances this “Tragedy of Everyman”, in which The Moor’s Wife is “wrongly suspected”, thanks to the devious friends. Although more than one-half century old, Limón’s work offers meaningful theatre. Francisco Ruvalcaba is riveting as The Moore, and Roxane D’Orléans Juste is compelling as The Moor’s Wife. Kudos to José Limón, who, although gone since 1972, lives on through the amazing legacy of his influence on the Limón Dance Company.

Limón Dance Company
"Suite from a Choreographic Offering"
Courtesy of Bill Hebert

Limón Dance Company
"The Traitor"
Jonathan Frederickson and Francisco Ruvalcaba
Courtesy of Beatriz Schiller

Limón Dance Company
"The Traitor"
Francisco Ruvalcaba
Courtesy of Beatriz Schiller

Limón Dance Company
Cast of "The Traitor"
Courtesy of Beatriz Schiller

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at