José Limón Dance Company comes from another time, familiar yet alien. Maybe it is the attention to structure and its overall serious purpose that makes it out of sync with newer, brash companies, but if it is dated, it is dated like Wuthering Heights is dated, or Mad Men. Each of the three words created by Limón on Saturday night’s program at The Latino Cultural Center seems embedded in a space, a time, and most of all, a clear intent.
Chaconne (1942), Moor’s Pavane (1949) and There is a Time (1956) all came into existence when modern dance believed in drama of a serious, high-minded sort, long before irony, abstraction and anti-everything took over.
That made the last work, Come with Me, created only last year by Rodigo Pederneiras’s, almost jarring, a blast into the present.
The serious side came to the fore with the opening work, There is a Time, drawing quite literally from chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes: “To every time there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Dressed in quasi-peasant 19th century garb, five men and five women form a circle, facing inward, and move slowly, swaying and dipping as they hold hands.
They break apart, and in a series of solos, duets and ensembles of four or five, embody the text—a time to cast away stones, a time to rend and a time to sew, a time to love. In “a time to kill,” an angry Francisco Ruvalcaba makes an explosive leap, the front leg thrust forward and the back leg bent. With one sweep of the arm, he cuts the air as though carrying a scythe. In “a time to love,” a giddy Belinda McGuire swirls and spins as she circles a meadow, her face radiant with joy. In “a time to speak,” Raphaēl Boumaïla opens his mouth as though to spout a torrent of words while Kristen Foote brings her hand over her mouth as though hoping to silence him.
At the end, the dance comes full circle, and the dancers gather to hold hands, once again swaying and leading and moving slowly.
Chaconne, set to Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor, was first performed by Limón himself and was meant to capture his rugged masculinity. Since then the solo has been performed by both men and women. Saturday’s show featured Kathryn Alter, dressed in men’s trousers and blousy shirt, crisscrossing the stage in circles with big, sweeping gestures that suggested both the ornate patterns of flamenco and the bold stance of a bullfighter.
Limón’s most famous work, Moor’s Pavane, distills Shakespeare’s Othello into a harrowing 20-minute interplay between four characters, with Iago sidling about Othello like a vampire as the innocent Desdemona glides serenely in their mist. Dante Puleio plays a particularly conniving Iago while Ms. Foote, as Iago’s wife, relishes her role in the deception until it is too late to discover the significance of a dropped handkerchief.
The program ended with a jaunty Come with Me, with dancers scampering about with a loose, easy stride, arms hung low and legs shooting out like pistons.
◊ Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.