Here's to Life

A dance company turns 60. Light those candles!

Despite my admiration for these versatile, wonderfully expressive dancers and their dedication to their heritage, I worry a little about occasional erosions in the Limón-Humphrey style. This was brought home by the matinée performance of A Choreographic Offering that I saw. It begins beautifully, with the entering dancers showing the breath-suspended lyricism that shapes the phrases Limón drew from Humphrey's dances for his homage to her. Not far into the piece, I start to fall asleep. The choreographic rhythms are wedded to Bach's quarter notes, rarely getting any swifter, but that's never bothered me before. What's missing are the dynamics that would provide contrast—the little sharpnesses, the sudden swoops, the happy plunges off balance. Everything looks careful, blanded out; I feel as if I'm watching the dance through a veil of reverence. The main thing that's missing here (and very occasionally elsewhere) is that Limón-Humphrey way of seeming to draw suspended moments from the floor and up through the body, and of falling out of certain steps rather than simply putting a foot down.

Lubovitch's Recordare honors Limón's Mexican roots. It's a charmer, and we get to see the dancers in new guises. In this lively gloss on Mexico's Day of the Dead, the usually grave Ruvalcaba is the dapper, lusty hip twitching, skeleton figure who leads the revels and D'Orleans Juste the grieving widow he easily woos into a lusty dance. Ruvalcaba's character later disguises himself as a big-titted women and pulls the drunken Bradley Shelver into a waltz. Jonathan Riedel appears as a pot-bellied devil with a waggling tongue, who both scares and amuses the villagers.

As in the real Day of the Dead festivals, acts that acknowledge death and remember the dead are leavened with pranks and celebratory dances. Ken Foy's terrific set imitates a carved wooden portal that can frame either a church or a little stage with a red velvet curtain. Out through the door comes the crowd, sombreros and shawls temporarily hiding their skeleton masks. The curtain opens to reveal masked "musicians" with cardboard instruments, then a frolicking bride and groom (Kyudo and Jonathan Riedel), then a couple (Katie Diamond and Seeber) with big troubles. The master of ceremonies plants a cleaver in Seeber's skull, and Diamond performs vigorous resuscitation without (duh!) success. It takes a passing saint (Foote) to perform the necessary miracle. Lubovich found the perfect music for Recordare, selections from Elliot Goldenthal's lively Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass. Anne Hould Ward designed the terrific costumes.

In Lar Lubovitch's Recordare
Photo by Rosalie O'Connor
In Lar Lubovitch's Recordare

Details

Limůn Dance Company
Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue
through Sunday
212-242-0800

In its own impudent way, Recordare carries a message not unlike Humphrey's and Limón's. Death and birth circle endlessly, and joy, not to mention survival, depends on our gazing more toward the light than into the darkness.

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