Things to do in Miami: dance now! Miami’s “Program III” with Limón Dance Company

The Limón Dance Company celebrates its 75th season and returns to live performances in a historic team with Dance Now! Miami.

Born in Mexico, José Limón was the only major Hispanic choreographer to co-found and lead an American dance company during modern dance’s formative years. Limón died in 1972, but his works thrive 50 years after his death.

Dante Puleio is a former Limón dancer and has been the company’s artistic director since 2020. He identifies Limón’s continued influence as a key to understanding 20th century dance.

“There are New York City legacy companies like Martha Graham and Paul Taylor whose founders have passed away, and yet their works live on,” Puleio says. “We were the first modern dance company to survive the death of its founder.”

Puleio continues, “People like Danny proved that a dance company founded by a charismatic founder could survive.” It refers to former Limón dancer and founding dean of dance at the New World School of the Arts Daniel Lewis, who plays a key role in the future team-up between the two companies.

In three South Florida performances on Thursday, May 12; Friday May 13; and Saturday May 14; The Limón dance company will perform Waldstein Sonata, a work for eight dancers based on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major. Jeffrey Hodgson, provost at the New World School of the Arts, will perform live piano accompaniment.

Although other dance companies have performed Waldsteinthe Limón company premiered the work on April 26 during the Joyce Theater season opener.

Click to enlarge

Limón Dance Company in Waldstein Sonata. The company will perform the piece as part of Dance Now! Miami’s “Program III”.

Photo by Hisae Aihara

Limón originally intended to create dances to all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, but his death from cancer left the work unfinished. Three years later, Lewis took on the task of completing the work.

Lewis’ career as a dancer is closely linked to that of the Mexican choreographer. He was already dancing with Limón Dance when he graduated from the Julliard school in 1967. Within a year, he began teaching dance at Julliard, taking charge of initiation to dance lessons from Limón and holding the position of artistic director of the Limón company until 1975.

“It was Martha Hill and Juilliard Chairman Peter Mennin who commissioned me to complete Waldstein Sonata at Juilliard in 1975,” Lewis explains over the phone. “Although the work has been performed all over the world, it is the first time that the Limón Company has performed it”, he adds.

After the follow-up performances with Dance Now! Miami in May, Lewis intends to donate the performing rights to the work to the Limón Company.

For Dance Now! Diego Salterini and Hannah Baumgarten, founding artistic directors of Miami, “Program III” is the culmination of years of corporate training and preparation for the Limón technique. Four DNM dancers and four LDC dancers will perform Waldstein Sonatas.

“There are many styles of modern dance, and you need to be trained to express them properly,” says Baumgarten. “Danny came to teach the DNM dancers. After all, he wrote the book on the José Limón technique. Over the past five years, our dancers have soaked up this.

Click to enlarge Dance now!  Miami in Anusim, What is Hidden is Never Lost..., a work by Hanna Baumgarten and Diego Salterini will be performed in "Program III," which also includes the dance company Limón.  - PHOTO BY SIMON SOONG

Dance now! Miami in Anusim, what is hidden is never lost…a work by Hanna Baumgarten and Diego Salterini will be performed in “Program III”, which also includes the Limón Dance Company.

Photo by Simon Soong

DNM will also cover 1947 from Limón La Malincheor The traitorthe company’s last performance in 2019. A work for three dancers, it tells the story of a young Indian girl, Malintzin, given to Cortez upon her arrival in Mexico.

“The two fell madly in love,” says Baumgarten, “and she revealed all the secrets of the Mexican people – one of the dancers performs the role of ‘El Indio’ which represents the Mexican people, and another role is played by La Malinchewhich means The traitor in Mexican Spanish.

The collaborative program will also include Limón Dance performing the choreographer’s 1967 work, Psalm. Originally inspired by André Schwarz-Bart’s 1959 novel, The last of the righteousthe dance is based on the ancient Jewish tradition that all the sorrows of the world rest on 36 righteous men, the Lamed-Vav.

“It’s about those men who support the world and its suffering without anyone even knowing that they’re even doing it,” says Puleio. “It’s as if his spirit triumphed over death.”

“Program III” ends with a DNM original Anusim, what is hidden is never lost…a work by Baumgarten and Salterini. Anusim depicts a story rarely told in Jewish history about the 1497 decree in Portugal requiring all Jews to be baptized as “new Christians”.

For Baumgarten, “Program III” captures DNM’s mission to both entertain and educate audiences.

“I think Jose Limón’s work is essential to understanding modern dance. He is not Isadora Duncan or Doris Humphrey, who of course later became his artistic director and mentor and created many works with the company,” explains Baumgarten. “But Limón was one of those choreographers who established that dance could speak to people’s real life conditions.”

– Sean Erwin, ArtburstMiami.com

Dance now! “Program III” from Miami with Limón Dance Company. 8:00 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at the Duncan Theater, 4200 S. Congress Ave., Lake Worth; 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; and 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, at the Aventura Arts and Culture Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura; 305-975-8489; dancenowmiami.org. Tickets cost between $20 and $50.

Colleen D. Ervin