The Limón Dance Company ensures that the past continues its hand-holding partnership with the future of modern dance.
The 67-year-old company, at Centennial Hall on Sunday, builds on the choreography and concepts of its founder José Limón.
"This company is dedicated to modern dance," said artistic director Carla Maxwell. "We are determined to keep the Limón tradition alive by extending his ideas into present and future performances. The one always infuses the other.
"It is very exciting to see a new generation embrace this work. Our company has always wanted to be more encompassing than just preserving the work of Jose Limón."
A charismatic pioneer in the emerging world of modern dance, Limón began this journey in 1928 when he arrived in New York City, an eager 20-year-old from Mexico. Immediately after Limón saw his first modern dance concert, he enrolled in studies with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, performing with them for a decade.
In 1946 Limón formed his iconic dance company, with Humphrey as artistic director. For the next 25 years Limón would be a major influence in shaping the world of modern dance. He passed away in 1972 but the Limón Dance Company has continued to be a major player.
"He always understood composition, he was a master of the form," said Maxwell, who joined the company as a dancer in 1965 and became the company's artistic director a decade later. "He believed there must be a partnership, especially with the music, and also the stage setting. He thought every dance should be a complete experience."
The music would not just be accompaniment, Maxwell explained. The dancers must complement the music, with movement that has equal dynamic range and qualities of musical counterpoint.
"It's like a marriage," Maxwell said. "For the dancers, it can take a long time to develop this rapport.
"In our company the dancers always need to find their own way into the choreography, to find their own interpretation of the movement. This can happen while performing, as well as in rehearsal.
"We say there is a fine line between choreography and performance."
Sunday's concert program opens with a major revival of the feature-length "Mazurkas," first performed in 1958, with music by Frédéric Chopin. The piece is divided into 10 sections presenting a variety of soloists and small ensembles.
Limón was inspired to create "Mazurkas" after visiting Poland in 1957. He intended the work as a tribute to the heroic spirit of the Polish people.
Representing the present is the dance fantasy "Come With Me" which premiered last year. The choreographer is Rodrigo Pederneiras working with a Latin jazz composition by Paquito D'Rivera commissioned by the company.
Gia Kourlas writing in the New York Times noticed moments of similarity to "Mazurkas" in some of the steps. She mentioned how the "flexed feet and sprightly low leaps recall moments from 'Mazurkas,' yet bring the dancers into the present. Ebullient, frisky, they meet it head on."
Representing the company's active repertoire is "The Moor's Pavan (Variations on a theme of Othello)," first performed in 1949 to music by Henry Purcell. Set on two couples, the tragic story of insecure Othello is told without any specific Shakespearean references.
IF YOU GO
• What: Limón Dance Company.
• Presented by: UApresents
• When: 7 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. on the University of Arizona campus.
• Tickets: $30-$50 with discounts available
• Reservations, information: 621-3341, uapresents.org
Chuck Graham is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact him at email@example.com