Limón Dance Company brings José Limón masterworks to Seattle's Meany Hall, as well as an unofficial world premiere by Grupo Corpo's Rodrigo Pederneiras.
Limón Dance Company brought a retrospective of its founder’s work to Meany Hall on Thursday, followed by an under-the-radar world premiere (officially “a first public sneak preview”) by Grupo Corpo’s choreographic genius-in-residence, Rodrigo Pederneiras.
The result was an evening that underwent a radical gear-change in its last stretch, as José Limón’s emotive force gave way to intricate Brazilian buoyancy. But the disconnect between moods didn’t stop the crowd from warmly applauding the Limón pieces or giving Pederneiras’ “Come With Me” a standing ovation
While linked in tone, the three Limón works — “There Is a Time” (1956), “Chaconne” (1942) and “The Moor’s Pavane” (1949) — explore movement possibilities on distinctly different scales.
“Time” is a group piece. It opens with a large circle of dancers that, under honey-colored light, leans left, leans right, rises up, drops down, stretches and contracts, before dissolving into a series of solos, duets and other configurations. The Pulitzer Prize-winning score by Norman Dello Joio delivers constant shifts of mood in compact vignettes that take their inspiration from lines from Ecclesiastes.
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Soloists Elise Drew-Leon and Dante Puleio were especially striking in the “time to heal” passage, where she “resurrected” him, her small frame angling and bucking his body back up into the flow of life. “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak” also brought out dazzling male-female partner-work as Kathryn Alter — muting herself with her hand across her mouth — was challenged by Francisco Ruvalcaba, who sidled up to her to the sound of startling handclaps, first offstage, then on.
“Chaconne” was a solo in which Raphaël Boumaïla became the music he was dancing to (an excerpt from Bach’s Partita No. 2 for violin). With every considered move, Boumaïla found the arching, angular architecture in the violin’s sounds. By the end, he seemed in a state of near ecstasy, sculpting the space around him with winglike arms.
The “The Moor’s Pavane,” subtitled “Variations on a theme of Othello,” is an overtly narrative work that echoes silent film in its expressionist intensity. It’s performed in period costume and pares down Shakespeare’s cast to an essential quartet, in a compact fugue exploring the poisoning of trust.
As the Moor of the title (Ruvalcaba) spars the Iago figure (Puleio), he all but catapults him off him at times, before succumbing to his malicious suggestions. Puleio makes something so depraved and diabolic out of the mere crooking of knee, once he’s achieved his ruinous goal, that he’s a sort of hideous wonder.
“Come With Me” couldn’t be more different from the Limón works. Set to an original Latin-jazz score by Paquito D’Rivera, it’s as zesty and witty as it must be technically tricky. It’s terrific that Limón Company is helping to spread the word on Pederneiras, and they dance it well — but they don’t quite have Grupo Corpo’s knack of looking as though they were born to these moves.
Case in point: Grupo Corpo veteran Diogo De Lima, guest starring in the piece, was the dancer who amazed, flinging his head back and legs up as though they were only loosely socketed in their joints and he didn’t much care if he lost them or not. Pederneiras usually takes a year to set a new piece on Grupo Corpo, Limón artistic director Carla Maxwell explained before the show, and “Come With Me” has only been in the cooker for six weeks.
By the time it makes its official premiere at New York’s Joyce Theater in June, maybe the Limón dancers will flicker and slither around in it as fluidly as De Lima does.
Note: “Come With Me” repeats Friday night only. Limón’s “Dances for Isadora” replaces it on Saturday.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org