Come With Me

Like a bird in flight, the flute flutters delicately as two José Límon dancers glide across the stage in the joyous danzón finale of Come with Me.

“When Paquito D’Rivera agreed to extend his ‘Ladies in White’ and write three new movements for the José Límon Dance Company,” said artistic director Carla Maxwell, “I thought, this is manna from heaven.”

Come with Me will be previewed during the Company’s upcoming 65th Anniversary Gala on May 7 in New York, where the critically acclaimed dance company will honor Yolanda Santos Garza, Founder of the Ballet de Monterrey; Roy Cosme, President/Founder of Arcos Communications and a senior Limón Board member; and Norton Owen, Director of Preservation for the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

“I thought of the dancers in Cuba’s old Tropicana where I worked with many choreographers,” D’Rivera mused. “I was amazed and nostalgic marveling at how the José Límon dancers could remember every step of the music and move so expressively to it. The company’s sense of rhythm and timing is as extraordinary as a Swiss watch.”

For the Gala, Maxwell sought out something special that would bring together the great legacy left by José Límon and its vision for the future. Maxwell, who spent the last seven years of Limon’s life as principal dancer before her appointment as artistic director in 1978, passionately recalls the work of her mentor who came to New York as an immigrant from Mexico and began dancing at age 21, considered late in the field. But he would be called the best dancer of the twentieth century by the New York Times.

“We are celebrating a triumph of the spirit,” Maxwell points out. “We’re one of the few companies in the U.S. that has grown and survived its founding director. We set the prototype that it can be done and frankly, if Límon were here, he’d be shocked that his technique has turned into an American modern dance classic as fundamental as Katherine Dunham or Alvin Ailey.”

Maxwell’s criteria for picking just the right choreographer fell in line with the Límon style of dance set against narrative scenes of dramatic expression featuring strong male dancers. Límon’s sense of community as background for his storytelling was the link that drew Maxwell to Rodrigo Perez Neida of Brazil’s Grupo Corpo. His creative process fell in line with the Límon philosophy of why artists create.

In her recollections of Límon, Maxwell waxes poetic recalling the dancer’s concern with societal issues that would drive him to literature, religion and history to create a dance. “Those of us that were here with José Límon were marked by the hand of a master. I saw that in the work of Rodrigo.”

Nestled between the 6/8 Afro-Cuban ñañigo bata drum frenzy of the commissioned work’s finale in “Freedom Dance” and the more-mellow bolero jazz of the third “Love Song” is the second movement: “Ladies In White.” Inspired by the Cuban women who protest, armed with only one white flower, the disappearance of family members, the piece morphs into a jazz waltz exuding a bold feminine strength against a backdrop of supporting dancers that form a community of narrative scenes exploding into the final movement’s dance of freedom fitting neatly, music and dancers, around the downbeat of the conga drum’s final slap.

“Find the dance inside you,” Maxwell recalled José Límon’s words of inspiration as she pointed to his forward moving mind that did not live in the past. “He would be very happy that we have this mixed energy in Come with Me bringing us into the future.” Following the Gala, Come with Me will debut June 30th at Summerstage in New York with a full cast of dancers and a nine piece orchestra directed by Paquito D’Rivera.


Aurora Flores