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Flash Review 1, 11-20: Tacky Wedding
Limon & Louis Hitched in Vegas
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
NEW YORK -- It is no simple task
for a 55-year-old company to premiere a dance, with so much history and context
to consider. The Limon Dance Company premiered Murray Louis's new work, "Isle
(From an Ancient Legend)" Friday at the Joyce Theater. On a program which included
works from the '40s as well as another premiere, "Isle" felt oddly anachronistic
by a couple of decades, and I don't refer to its subtitle. Its tone -- uncomfortably
balanced between operatic expressionism and Vegas satire -- did not solve itself
by the piece's conclusion.
Roxane d'Orleans Juste gamely played
an insatiable, omnipotent princess looking for diversion in the forms of Dante
Puleio, Francisco Ruvalcaba, Jonathan Riedel, and Raphael Boumaila. D'Orleans
Juste pulled her shock of wild hair tightly together and mimed a scream, which
summoned the four men onstage looking much like a frieze that had just stepped
off a Grecian urn. To an eclectic commissioned score by Scott Killian, under dramatic
lighting by Louis and Alberto Del Saz, d'Orleans Juste clapped her hands. The
men performed cartwheels and stylized, bent-leg layouts for her amusement. They
clutched their backs, fatigued from the effort, and dropped their weary heads
into upward-cupped palms. Still not satisfied, d'Orleans Juste wiggled her hips
like a snake and submerged into a world of private thoughts.
While Las Vegas style has its own
unique aesthetic, its manifestation in Frank Garcia's black and gold unitard and
tiger-striped velour trunks and leather harnesses seemed out of sorts on this
bill. Louis's flair for the operatic meshed with this sensibility, yet I was never
certain whether to laugh or cringe at the over-the-top tackiness, so I wound up
doing a bit of both.
"Isle" was conveniently, but not
flatteringly, juxtaposed with two short, early expressionistic works. Doris Humphrey's
"Invention" (1949) opened the evening with a gale of fresh air. Her pure, archetypal
modern language, so fundamental to contemporary dance, came across as a folk idiom
here, and not the slightest bit stale. An assertive performance by Robert Regala,
with Kristen Foote and Kimiye Corwin, underscored the elemental movement: broad,
strong shapes in leaps; releves at compass points with the leg in a second attitude;
flat, outward-facing palms held high like beacons. A curved arm and near-split,
deep lunges felt like essential embellishments.
The second, early short work comprised
two excerpts from Eleanor King's "Roads to Hell: Envy, Wrath" (1940-41), performed
with great intensity by Risa Steinberg. These character portraits -- expressionistic
physical renditions of raging emotions -- employed hissing, spitting, and cackling
as loaded signifiers. Steinberg's ever-wilder hair was useful to convey her correspondingly
wild psychological state. Barry Gawinski designed the suitably garish green and
Yet another early classic, "The Moor's
Pavane" (1949) by Jose Limon, was beautifully performed by Ruvalcaba, Nina Watt,
Riedel, and Mary Ford. This taut tale based on Shakespeare's "Othello" contained
no excessive movement or filler steps. Each motivic gesture was bursting with
meaning, and each member of this cast captured his/her role's characteristics
The program also included this season's
premiere of "Short Story," a moving duet danced by Nina Watt and choreographer
Doug Varone to Rachmaninoff. Trapped in a box of light (by Ted Sullivan, who executed
much of the evening's lighting) and surrounded by darkness, the couple's nearly
every gesture took on two meanings: at once fierce and gentle, hostile and loving,
protective and repulsive. The complexity of mature love was eloquently revealed
in the course of this too-brief gem.
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