A mainstay of classical American modern dance, the 68-year-old Limón Dance Company brought a mix of old and new to the Mainstage Theatre at UB Center for the Arts Friday night.
The entertaining program led off with company namesake José Limón’s 1958 group work “Mazurkas” set to a suite of music by Frederic Chopin. The upbeat work layered Limón’s signature modern dance technique characterized by fall and rebound movement and the curved shaping of arms and layered that onto traditional Eastern European folk dance to create a work celebrating the courage and spirit of the Polish people following WWII.
The company’s eight multigenerational dancers moved through buoyant, lyrical choreography that had them kicking up their feet and shuffling into fast-paced jumps and turns. Highlighting the work were a carefree solo by dancer Elise Drew Leon, which had her with arms overhead bumping the insides of her wrists together like the kissing of doves, and a fitful solo by Raphael Boumaila that perhaps recalled the suffering of the Polish people under German occupation. His clenched fists reached heavenward punctuating an emotional performance that ended with him casting a distant stare as he walked slowly off stage.
Next came special previews of two new works for the company that will premiere in New York City at the end of April.
“She Who Carries The Sky” (2014) was a marvelous solo created by choreographer Diane McIntyre for LDC associate artistic director Roxane D’Orleans Juste in celebration of her 30th anniversary with the company. Set to a soundscape by Jon Hassel and Farafina and R. Carlos Nakai, the gesture-filled solo began with D’Orleans Juste barefoot, in a long skirt and top with scarf draped around her neck moving as if executing a martial arts kata or perhaps a rain dance as not long into the solo sound effects of a thunderstorm began causing D’Orleans Juste to wrap her head with the scarf. The veteran dancer oozed stage presence in McIntyre’s ritualistic choreography that had her waving her hands in brushing and clearing motions and staggering backwards throwing her head and hands skyward in fearful reverence to some unseen force.
The second preview, choreographer Seán Curran’s “Nocturnes For Ancestors” (2014) set to a commissioned score, was a bit of an enigma. On the one hand the large group work was like a languid Bollywood dance and on the other, its nicely patterned choreography mixing in Flamenco, tap and a hint of Irish dance movement proved engaging. The work was at its best during its slower, more reflective moments but on the whole gave off a sense something being lacking.
The program concluded with the 2001-2002 re-staged version of Limón’s masterwork “Psalm” (1967). Danced to an original score by Jon Magnussen, the work was inspired by the ancient Jewish belief that all the sorrows of the world rest within thirty-six Just Men. “Psalm” envisioned the journey of one such “Just Man” in an operatic pilgrimage in the Limón dance style. The sweeping work featured dancer Dante Puleio as the burdened “Just Man” surrounded by a wellspring of expertly crafted unison group dancing that was moving and entrancing. Akin to Vaslav Njinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in scope and intensity, the work brought out the best in the full company’s performing and was a dramatic end to a solid program of dance.