Limón Dance Company Collaborates With Andover Dance Group

The depth of the Phillips Academy Dance department was brilliantly realized when it joined with the world-famous Limón Dance Company. The professional dance company’s performances with Phillips Academy last Friday and Saturday represented an expressionistic melding of history with modern dance. Carolyn Calabrese ’09, one of the members of the Andover Dance Group (ADG) who performed with the Limón dancers, said, “The dancers shared a strong sense of history, legacy and the importance of continuing tradition and telling stories, whether it be through dance or not. All the Limón dancers had such a profound respect and dedication to reproducing the Limón works.” Phillips Academy dancers had been preparing the choreography since January. For the past two weeks, the Limón Company’s Kristen Foote and Kathryn Alter worked with ADG to improve their technique and expression. Megumi Ishizuka ’08 said, “The Limón dancers showed us that dancing is more than just moving your arms and legs around to music. They showed us that in order to be a great dancer you have to dance with every part of you and you have to go all out all the time in order to make that happen.” Similarly, Mikaela Sanders ’08 said, “I took a master class with Carla, the Artistic Director. She told us to treat our bodies as the instruments that created the music we danced to, and I think it really helped us work on our musicality.” The opportunity ADG had to work with the professional dancers was an unusual one. The Limón Company’s Artistic Director, Carla Maxwell, said, “Touring for arts is very difficult [because] art budgets are being cut. . . We’ve worked with arts conservatories before, but schools are unusual.” This rare collaboration was made possible by a generous Abbot grant. The works that resulted were truly manifestations of modern dance at its highest level of proficiency. The first dance of the night was titled “I Am.” Choreographed by Wombwell and members of ADG, the piece was a poignant physical translation of fitting into society and identifying oneself. Wombwell said of her inspiration for the dance, “I was focusing on a passage a person makes as they move from being pushed around and greatly influenced by outside forces to become secure within themselves and starting to focus on interior areas. That was what inspired the structure of the piece — the logistics and individual steps were inspired and sometimes created by our outstanding dancers.” It was intricate and playful; the choreography melded fluidity with choppy repetition. The dances juxtaposed angular and loose movements, and the choreographer integrated allusions to nature. A stylistic theme was the use of small groups of synchronized dancers separate from one lone dancer to emphasize “society” and “outcasts.” The arrangements and interactions were creatively executed, and the piece was testament to the talent of Phillips Academy dancers. The second piece, entitled “Chaconne,” was choreographed by José Limón; it was a solo danced to Bach’s Partita #2. Company dancer Kathryn Alter performed Chaconne and said, “Every dance has a specific form, musicality and movement vocabulary… [Similarly, every] musician has a different interpretation of Partita, it’s the same with a dancer.” She added, “It’s a dancer’s job to master the form and structure of a dance and then go beyond to find the journey [of the piece].” Alter’s rendition of Chaconne was breathtaking, beautiful and powerful. Her distinction between fast and slow movements was masterful. Additionally, she maintained an energy and exuberance. Her stage presence was simply captivating. She took control of the stage from the beginning pose through to the end. Sanders said, “[Chaconne] was very long, yet the soloist never showed signs of fatigue on her face. She had a very strong center and incredible balance; I never saw her falter even a tiny bit during the entire piece.” The three other dances of the night were equally beautiful. The third piece was an excerpt from Limón’s “A Choreographic Offering,” danced by Company dancer Kristen Foote along with members of ADG; the fourth dance was Alter’s choreographed “Hence,” performed by five ADG members. The final piece was “Day on Earth,” choreographed by Doris Humphrey and danced by three Limón Company dancers with a guest dancer, Morgana Cragnotti. Each dance showed an intensity of emotion. Limón’s pieces clearly elucidated his interest in portraying human nature. Maxwell explained that when Limón’s family first immigrated to the United States, he aspired to be a painter because he understood that visual art was a method of communication. The young man’s early life in a new country was difficult. He overcame many obstacles relating to expression, language and communication. After watching a German expressionist dancer, Limón realized that his true calling was dance. Maxwell said, “[He] saw that men could dance with dignity, grace and power… It was an avenue of creativity.” It was suggested to Limón that he should study with Doris Humphrey, a world-renowned dance instructor at the time. He studied under her tutelage for many years and eventually asked her to join him in opening his own dance company as the Artistic Director. Maxwell said of Limón’s choreography, “[His dances] give a message of hope, affirmation and the struggle and resilience of the human spirit.”