When the Limón Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it will bring a powerful vision of founder José Limón. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity of his fellow human beings. The company will present three of his works, along with pieces by artistic director Colin Connor and local star choreographer Rosie Herrera.
Limón is one of the most important figures in American modern dance. He was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was a boy. That experience seemed to have influenced many of his dances. “I was an alien,” he wrote in his memoirs.
Connor reflects on that background and Limón’s keen ability to observe how people interact with each other in different environments. He also commented on Limón’s “incredible sense of musicality.” Both of these factors contribute to the overall feeling of the timelessness of his pieces.
Limón died in 1972 without leaving instruction on the future of his company. However, the company not only survived but is now in its seventh decade, and Limón’s work is regularly performed worldwide. Each of his three pieces on this weekend's program, “Chaconne” (1942), “A Choreographic Offering” (1964) and “The Unsung” (1971), were created at different stages of his life. But there is a common empathetic thread.
“Chaconne” is a solo which Limón created for himself to music by Bach, imbued with a sense of a journey with infinite possibilities. This, says founding dean of dance at the New World School of the Arts Daniel Lewis, who performed with the company and served as its acting artistic director after Limón’s death, was the piece “that distinguished him, and gave him credibility as a choreographer.”
“A Choreographic Offering” is an homage to the early modern dance pioneer Doris Humphrey, Limón’s teacher and mentor. The piece incorporates Humphrey’s unique and joyous dance vocabulary.
Lewis was one of the original dancers in “The Unsung,” and explains that it honors unsung Native American heroes. The dance is done without musical accompaniment, the breath and footfalls of the dancers the sole soundtrack.
Connor’s contribution, “The Body is a House without Walls,” deals with the theme of memory and its power to regenerate — “the way we keep things alive with memory,” according to Connor. It also deals with the sense of touch, “touch being the first and the last of the senses... the idea that touch was there from the beginning — in the womb.”
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The Limón Dance Company repertory balances Limón’s classical work with commissions from contemporary choreographers. One such choreographer is Herrera, the Miami native and graduate of The New World School of the Arts, where she studied the Limón technique with Bambi Anderson. She now runs her own company, Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre.
Connor points to the similarities between Limón and Herrera, both having lived the immigrant experience (Herrera is Cuban-American). He says he also saw “an interesting juxtaposition” between the two: Herrera is “curious about ordinary things... Limón was drawn to the grand.” Herrera's piece “Querida Herida” ("My Beloved Scar") has its Miami premiere this weekend. “I thought of the legacy of Limón, and how much he was living in a space where he was an outsider, and how that translated into how he communicated,” says Herrera. Her piece is a duet between two women. “It looks at what it means to negotiate and surrender. The things you can say, and the things you can’t.”
— Diana Dunbar, Artburstmiami.com
Limón Dance Company. 8 p.m. Saturday, October 21, at South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th St., Cutler Bay; 786-573-5300; smdcac.org. Tickets cost $25-45.