Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rosie Herrera work featured in Limón season at The Joyce

Limón Dance Company performs The Unsung
(photo: Beatriz Schiller)

Amid the historic repertory of José Limón--Missa Brevis, premiered in 1958, and The Unsung, from 1971--Limón Dance Company has added an edgy splash of color and razzledazz to Program A of its new season at The Joyce Theater. It's the New York premiere of Querida Herida (2017), a women's trio by Rosie Herrera, a Miami-based, Cuban-American choreographer. Its clever title translates as dear (or beloved) wound, and its mischief stands out in a program that otherwise underscores the Mexico-born José Limón's earnest focus on the heroism embedded in our common humanity.

For instance, in The Unsung's signature opening ensemble, Limón envisioned a ceremony of beautiful men, each dancer named for an indigenous warrior chief--Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Tecumseh and so forth--something that might raise eyebrows if created today, say, by a white dancemaker. The gorgeousness of the group's work, though, is unquestionable. The patterns of their communal dancing are rich in rigorous geometric structure, and their well-ordered footfalls provide the only music, a bracing percussion reminiscent of Native American drumming.

Missa Brevis--set to Zoltán Kodály's Missa Brevis in Tempore Belli--salutes the endurance of survivors of war-torn Poland and what Limón called their "heroic serenity." He said, "I'm going to do a dance about it--in the ruins I found a dance." He forged a prayerful congregation who become their prayers, whose bodies transform into rung church bells. Made by artistic director and former Limón dancer Colin ConnorThe Body is a House without Walls (2017), with its atmosphere of heroic grief and release, fits well with Limón modern dance aesthetics while lacking the boldface visual clarity that makes Limón's craft still affecting even as contemporary dance speaks to us in newer ways.

Which brings me around to Herrera and her beloved--artfully concealed, artfully revealed--wounds. How to take a work that careens between being barely there and over-the-top? Where two women cling to each other, dancing slow drags to Cuban music as if half-asleep, periodically unzipping parts of their skintight, midnight-black gowns as if slicing satiny, raspberry-red gashes into each other's flesh? Where, one minute, there's fake nudity (a dancer stripped down to a pale-colored leotard), and another, the women suddenly cavort in gleaming, gold-spangled party dresses? Where the lovers grapple and shove, leaving one vanquished and abandoned? Where an arterial ribbon of red spans the stage like a guide wire as a third dancer crosses that space in increasingly whimsical ways? How to take a work that makes some viewers chuckle at absurdity while others cringe at violence? And where some might very well do both at the same time? Where can we locate Herrera's fugitive tone and her intent?

Like the bright, picturesque wounds its dancers inflict upon each other, Querida Herida ruptures the sobriety and solemnity of Program A. Is this a good thing? Perhaps. Is it a different take on life and humanity from a Latinx artist of a new generation, new outlook? Something to ponder. Audiences who attend Program B and C--which, respectively, introduce New York premieres by Adam Barruch and Yin Yue--will get to ponder how these young choreographers affect the overall balance and alchemy of the Limón season.

Limón Dance Company: Jacqueline Buines, Terrence D. M. Diable, Angela Falk, Tanner Myles Huseman, David Glista, Logan Frances Kruger, Alex McBride, Brenna Monroe-Cook, Jesse Obremski, Frances Samson, Savannah Spratt, Mark Willis; apprentices Deepa Liegel and Malik Williams

Guest dancers: Carolina Avendano,Terry Springer, Kristen Foote and Julian Nichols

Limón Dance Company continues through Sunday, May 13 on the following schedule:

Thursday at 8pm
The Unsung (José Limón)
The Body Is a House Without Walls (Colin Connor)
Querida Herida (Rosie Herrera)
Missa Brevis (José Limón)


Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 2pm (family matinee)
The Unsung (José Limón)
The Body Is a House Without Walls (Colin Connor)
Conjurations (Adam Barruch)
Missa Brevis (José Limón)


Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm
The Unsung (José Limón)
The Body Is a House Without Walls (Colin Connor)
No Room For Wandering (Yin Yue)
Missa Brevis (José Limón)

For information and tickets, click here.

The Joyce Theater
175 Eight Avenue (corner of 19th Street), Manhattan

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