Limon: Lessons in modern dance history
Limon Dance Company danced the delightful "Waldstein Sonata" on Friday night at The Egg.
Limon Dance Company, one of the oldest continuous running American modern dance ensembles, gave Friday night’s Egg audiences a lesson in the art’s history.
For a dance fanatic like myself, seeing these historic and ground-breaking works underscores the legacy and how far the art has progressed. But I could see that for some in the audience, these works were difficult as they were small and delicate, not layered with bombastic blazes that audiences, myself included at times, expect and find appealing today.
Regardless, I can say I was taken with this four-piece program as it was beautiful, elegant and the dancing was sublime.
Consider the opener, Doris Humphrey’s 1929 “Air for the G String,” to music of the same name by Bach. Though there was a technical glitch with the music at the start, the dance for five women was deeply touching. Wearing long flowing robes of gold, the dancers walk, uplift their arms and twirl with a fluid grace in a way that elevates simplicity to a celestial level. It was divine.
The rest of the program featured works by Jose Limon, founder and artistic director of the company, which was established in 1946. Among the oldest works was his “Chaconne,” a dance created in 1942 for the Humphrey-Weidman Studio Theater. Set to Bach’s “Partita No. 2 in D minor” for violin, the solo, as performed by Savannah Spratt, was a portrayal of strength and dignity. Spratt began in a spotlight, stepped out of it like a matador into an arena to face an undefined darkness. She was regal as her movement swung from soft to sharp, without ever giving ground to the unseen.
Overall, it was a serious program which also included Limon’s 1972 “Orfeo,” a work based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, lovers divided by death. As the story goes, Orpheus’s musical brilliance on the lyre softened the heart of Hades who would allow Eurydice to return to Earth with Orpheus, on the condition neither look back at the underworld.
The dance, set to Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 95, began with a Orfeo, as portrayed by Nicholas Ruscica, performing a mournful dance. The control and anguish, as he reached out and then folded back in as if his insides crumbled, shot across the house. His beloved, danced by Frances Lorraine Samson, then appeared covered in a long, sheer cloth. Escorted by a trio of underworld nymphs, she was released and the two embraced in a sensuous duet that ended in a kiss -- a fatal mistake sending her away from Orfeo once again.
While I was enamored by these works, the “Waldstein Sonata” was the evening’s most enjoyable. Set to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major, this happy dance was created on four couples who frolic and float in intriguing formations through the bright music.
It was a charming closer to an enlightened evening.
Momix was back in town on Thursday night, performing at The Egg.
Momix is magic.
The dance ensemble – a byproduct of Moses Pendleton’s fertile imagination – is an assemblage of athletes, acrobatics and artists who sweep audiences into a world of illusion where nature and human foibles are elevated to hypnotic beauty or sheer fun.
And those in the know smartly poured into The Egg on Thursday night to see yet another delightful Momix mix – mostly a showing of classics and tidbits from the full-length “Botanica.”
Much of Momix’s genius is channeled through the clever use of everyday props like in the ticklishly humorous curtain-riser “Solar Flares.” Here, vibrating orange pool noodles, along with the scurrying of the dancers, created a vision of a giant insect, flapping its legs and creeping across the stage. Drumming from Mr. Mahalo Head pumped up the dancers and the audience for the high-energy movement and wizardry to come.
There was a lot of it. “Marigolds,” featuring five women in frilly skirts to look like flowers bending in the wind, was a vibrant, swaying dance with a middle eastern vibe. The women also showed off their fluid synchronicity in “Baths of Caracalla,” where silken white banners twirled above and around their bodies in the most mesmerizing fashion.
Equally intoxicating was “Aqua Flora,” performed by Amanda Hulen, in which a beaded curtain, that fell over her body became something that looked a glowing massive halo or the flapping wings of a bird in flight.
Momix also dabbled in the purely silly, like in “Daddy Long-Legs,” where a trio dressed as cowboys created the appearance of strutting and riding their steeds with the ingenious use of one stilt. And “If You Need Some Body,” in which dancers toss about floppy dummies that bend and flew at odd angles, was hilarious.
Momix also showed off its mettle and muscles in “Table Talk” with Jason Williams who vaulted and swung his legs about on the table as if it were a pommel horse. “Millennium Skiva,” one of Pendleton’s oldest works, also required strength as two dancers – on skis – rocked back and forth on their runners launching themselves into an otherworldly duet.
All the pieces were short, so boredom was never an option. And once the audience got past the question of “how do they do that,” power of reason was set aside and we all became spellbound.
Momix always does that. They are sensational seducers of the mind and we, as short-term witnesses, were once again the beneficiaries.