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An endless work of José Limón - Repertoire review NY 2020

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«To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven»

Ecclesiastes 3:1


Sixty-five years after the premiere, the 19th of December 2020, the new Artistic Director of the Limón Dance Company, Dante Puleio, reproposes There is a time during the residence at the Kaatsbaan Cultural Park of New York. The whole work is impeccable, both coreographically and musically. It was created by José Limón in 1956 on the musical score Meditations on Ecclesiastes by the composer Norman Dello Joio. Compared to the first representation Puleio draws on his artistic eye in order to revisit some details.


«A time to rise and a time to die»


The dancers compose a circle that fills the stage and moves with majesty, evoking the perpetual flow of time. We see the circle repeatedly in numerous forms, rhythms and dramatic conditions, always referring to the text present inside the Third Chapter of the Ecclesiastes and to its evocation of the human experience. Twelve verses of the biblical passage are danced and, thanks to the swing of movement between fall and recovery – the principle upon which the Limón Technique is based – the company represents with outstanding ability the multiple states in opposition of the text, pointing out the existence of a time for each of them.


«A time to keep silence and a time to speak»


The musical score was specifically written for There is a time, but it was never completed, since Dello Joio, badly pressed by other commitments, left the duet A time to keep silence, and a time to speak unaccompanied towards the end of the piece’s realization. Limón seized the opportunity to compose the duet without music, depicting a deep silence in contrast to a piercing noise. Compared to the oeuvre’s first version, the new one sees a reversal of roles. This time, it’s the woman who affirm her importance, clapping her hands sharply and insistently against her thighs: establishing her point of view with aggressive and percussive movements, she tries to destroy the man’s one, rather expressed with quiet, encircling and engulfing movements.


“A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing”


Again, the duet A time to embrace adds new features to its depth. Earlier represented by a pas de deux man-woman, it is now proposed with two men on stage who embrace each other’s existence, regardless of their skin colour. Their lifts evoke the floating-upside-down figures painted by the artist Marc Chagall. They create a wonderfully unexpected upside-down lift, from which one dancer rests across the other’s shoulder and, as the other spins in place, they spiral to the floor. It was smooth, unusual, and very much Chagall.


“A time to cry and a time to laugh”


A highly emotional choreographic scene comes just before the ending one: the group, together with the soloist, moves with lovely fluidity, composing the circle again. There is a notable listening and the desire to move together towards the future reverberate down to the dancers’ bones. There is a time teaches that there is a time for everything and that the cycle continues, just as life does. Fortunately, we have the work of visionaries such as Limón and Puleio, reminding us universal truths like that, often forgotten in our times.


“A time to mourn and a time to dance”


It must be added that the charm of this artwork is also in its still being in bloom. The dance company keeps alive Limón’s work with meticulous attention, however accepting the change. After all, what sense would it make to embalm the beauty of a freshly blossomed lily?

Written by Matteo Mascolo.

Translations: text translated in English by Bianca Pasquinelli and in Spanish by Greta Zagani.

Sources: Limón Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, Summer 1994 ISSN 1073-7103. Pauline Koner’s autobiography, Solitary Song, 1989 Duke University Press. Dance is a Moment: A Portrait of José Limón in Words and Pictures, 1993 by Barbara Pollack and Charles Humphrey Woodford.

Photo credit: Kelly Puleio, Limón Dance Company Rehearsals, Kaatsbaan Residency, 2020. Courtesy José Limón Dance Foundation.

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