By Lindsay Walker
PHOTO COURTESY OF UA PRESENTS
The modern dance troupe Lim—n performs at Centennial Hall. The group was founded by Josˇ Lim—n, a pioneer of modern dance, in 1946. The company does not use stage settings or props, relying only on lighting and costumes to set the mood for their performances.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday February 27, 2003
You are staring at an empty stage. Music softly begins tickling your ear as you watch several figures gracefully move across the platform before you. Their movements are strangely familiar, and you feel a connection with the emotion they express, not knowing exactly what that connection is, but feeling it just the same.
You are watching the 13 members of the Lim—n Dance Company, a modern dance troupe whose origins date back to 1946. The group's founder, Josˇ Lim—n, was one of the best-known male dancers of his generation; he died in 1972. Throughout his life, he and mentors Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman helped to shape modern dance. During the 1930s and '40s, they developed significant techniques of modern dance and choreographed many dance numbers for performance.
One technique that Humphrey employed in her dances involved the way Dionysian and Apollonian Greek philosophy related to dance, the Dionysian representing disorder and spontaneity, and the Apollonian representing order and rationality.
Margaret Regan, dance critic for the Tucson Weekly and other publications, says that many of Lim—n's own moves were inspired by this concept.
"He talked about it in terms of the angel and the devil in man, that we're all angels and we're all devils. So, there are some movements that are sort of profound and orderly, and there are others that are wild and uncontrolled."
To the untrained eye, modern dance is often associated with ballet despite the differences between the two. Ballet is a European art form that was initially developed for entertainment purposes, originally performed during intermission at an opera or play. The movements in ballet are very other-worldly, expressing a desire to defy gravity.
Carla Maxwell, artistic director for the Lim—n Dance Company since 1978, agrees that the original motivation behind American-born modern dance differs from that of ballet.
"The people who were creating this new movement said ĪOK, we're not going to dance on point, we're going to dance barefoot, we're going to relate to the earth, we're not going to try to show idealized fantasy storylines,'" she said. "We want to show human emotion, we want to show real-life situations in our drama. What happens on earth is beautiful, too."
This beauty and emotion is something that the Lim—n Dance Company attempts to keep alive. It constantly commissions new work to perform. Maxwell and others teach classes on dance. Sometimes even the dancers themselves choreograph a piece for performance.
However, one of the most important goals for the group is to keep the works of Josˇ Lim—n from dying. Many of his works are considered genius, and much of the repertoire that the company performs today is Lim—n's.
One of Lim—n's most prestigious dances is "Psalm." Lim—n based this piece off of an ancient Jewish tale about 36 just men who carried the weight of the world upon their shoulders. "Psalm" was written after Lim—n was diagnosed with cancer and thus is a very powerful, emotional piece. First performed in 1967, "Psalm" has since been restaged by Maxwell and put to new music written by Jon Magnussen. Maxwell felt that the dance needed to be reworked in order for the audience to more clearly see what Lim—n was trying to say. The original piece was longer and more cumbersome, and it had two finales.
According to Tara Kirkpatrick, a publicist for UApresents who saw the Lim—n Dance Company perform in New York City last year, "Psalm" is the most striking of all the troupe's performances.
"It was very much like staring at a beautiful painting. The dancers moved so boldly, yet so intricately," Kirkpatrick said. "I felt that I was watching a masterpiece being created. The emotion did not need to be spelled out. It came through the movement of the performers."
There are many elements that are important to setting the overall mood for a performance. The company performs with no stage settings or props. Lighting is a component that creates a visual environment for the dancers to step into. Also, costumes help the audience to comprehend the emotions of the dancers and the message they are trying to convey.
However, if all of these factors were removed, Maxwell believes that the audience would not be at too great a disadvantage.
"I think that the movement alone would tell the same message, whether you were seeing it in full production or not, and that was the aim of Josˇ Lim—n and his mentors. Movement can be such a strong language that it will carry the scene," she said.
Maxwell stresses that, although the techniques employed in each dance are unique, the goal of every work is the same.
"What they're about is timeless, because they're about the human experience, and that's always happening."