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Dance Review: Lim n Dance Company Is Worth Staying For

Piece by Company Founder and Direction Stand Out in Three-Piece Program

By Rosa Cao

Limon Dance Company

Bank of America Celebrity Series

Tsai Performance Center, Boston

Oct. 29, 30

The Lim n Dance Company presented three pieces last weekend as part of the Bank of America Celebrity Series. The program featured “Suite from a Choreographic Offering,” a sampling of excerpts from company co-founder Doris Humphrey’s works, the world premiere of “Recordare,” Lar Lubovitch’s creation celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead, as well as Jos Lim n’s own most famous piece, “The Moor’s Pavane: Variations on a Theme of Othello.”

Despite obvious differences in visual style and emotional tone from the abstraction of “Suite” to the lush melodrama of “Pavane,” the distinctive tense and release rhythm of American modern dance, as embodied in the work and vision of Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham, pervaded all three pieces. The partnering was effortless and energetic in all three pieces, and the turns were remarkable: a human demonstration of the right hand rule any professor would love to have, smoothly spooling up and unwinding down.

Alternating meter was everywhere in “Suite”, which surveyed Humphrey’s explorations into the myriad possibilities of rise and fall, grow and shrink, surge forward and fall back, in the human body. These formed the raw material of the dance, but some of its most elegant moments came when the choreography allowed the dancers to depart from the tyranny of the rhythm, as when a woman walked off stage entirely on the backs of her partners, straining higher and higher and higher, renouncing the inevitable fall.

One of the drawbacks of “Suite” was the lack of coherence; while the survey was complete, it felt fragmented, like a curtain call rather than a piece in itself. It was also disappointing that some members of this highly regarded dance company seemed unable to stay together, or even stay on the music in movements like “Quintet” or “Solo with Five.” Each individual dancer looked great, but the ensemble effect was ragged. Okay, so it’s not the Bolshoi, and they’re not supposed to be swans in perfect balanced synchrony, but it does seem like they should be able to hold their closing poses at the end of movements without wobbling.

It was unclear whether the Tang Performance Center’s sound system was to blame, or a bad recording; in any case, the tinny sound in the theater failed to do Bach’s “A Musical Offering” justice: insistent repetition without a hint of nuance or variation dominated the piece, drowning out subtleties in the “Suite” itself. Elliot Goldenthal’s simpler music for “Recordare” fared much better.

The seasonal Day of the Dead pageant was just that: pageantry, representing entertainment at its most colorful and blatant. The humor ranged from broad farce to the downright lewd, while the dancing took second place to sight gags and mime. Both company and audience seemed to welcome the costumes and plot after the pure abstraction of “Suite,” though the little old lady in front of me seemed a little traumatized when Death got up in drag and straddled a drunken cowboy on stage.

There were many more empty seats by the beginning of the last piece; perhaps a quarter of the sell-out crowd had left, which was a shame, because the Moor’s Pavane, the only piece choreographed by Lim n himself, was the heart of the show. Here the company’s signature rhythm was especially and appropriately reminiscent of iambic pentameter. The old tragedy was acted with lush melodrama, sustained by Purcell’s thickly-textured baroque. The only moments of awkwardness came in stillness, either physical or auditory. As long as the music kept going, the dancing and acting maintained the intensity of the legend.

Although it is perhaps unavoidable in the world of dance, this program really emphasized the strong gender roles throughout: female dancers were pretty in pink in “Suite,” and brides, seductresses, or victims, usually compliant, usually helpless in “Recordare.” In “Pavane,” Desdemona, dressed in pure innocent white, meets her ineluctable fate in a veritable orgy of submission.

Given that most of us are on student budgets here, there’s probably no need to lay out for the Celebrity Series. How about $10 or less to check out student dance groups at MIT and Harvard instead? They have just as much talent and, with fewer performances to dilute it, more concentrated enthusiasm than the professionals showed.