Anna Sokolow's "Rooms" by Jose Limon Dance Co. Last Night Blew Me Right Away

(images of Rooms taken from here).

Last night was the opening night of Jose Limon Dance Company‘s one-week season at the Joyce. Program A consisted of two dances: Into My Heart’s House by Limon protegee Clay Taliaferro, created this year, and a revival of Anna Sokolow’s 1955 masterpiece, Rooms.

Heart’s House was a lovely lyrical dance in the style of Limon, very spiritual, and set mainly to Bach music, beloved by Limon.

But it was the second piece, Sokolow’s Rooms, that really blew me away. Unfortunately I can’t find a YouTube clip of it to show as an example, but basically, the piece evokes the solitariness, the loneliness of the human condition and it does so brilliantly and hauntingly. A set of chairs are brought out onto the stage, each one representing one room containing an individual. At times several dancers take the stage at once, one to a chair (but each alone on that chair), at times only one, two or three will dance. In one section, “Panic,” a man has a frightening nightmare from which he tries desperately to escape, eventually leading to a kind of paranoia that alienates everyone around him; in “Daydream” three women seem to look off into the distance, sharing a similar vision, but each reacting differently; in one section — my favorite — “Escape” a woman (the excellent Roxanne D’Orleans Juste) seems to be remembering a loved one who has passed, feeling him caress her, only to realize he is gone, she is alone with only herself as comfort (and everyone who has lost anyone can relate to her movements, her range of emotions); in another section “Going” a man seems to run and run in slow motion, but it is more like sleepwalking as he never seems to get anywhere; and in the two sections that open and close the dance, both named “Alone,” all dancers take the stage, dancing together on their chairs, yet not connecting with each other, each alone. At one point they all lie on the floor, their legs wrapping around each others’, weaving in and out, making a kind of tangled web of would-be communication, never touching.

Honestly, one of the best dances I’ve ever seen. Makes me hungry to see more Sokolow.

I also can’t wait to see Program B later this week, which will be Limon’s classics including The Traitor and The Moor’s Pavanne about which I’ve heard so much.

Limon (who was born in Mexico and moved to Los Angeles when he was still a child), along with Doris Humphrey, his teacher and a master of American modern dance, founded the company 62 years ago, making it the longest continuously operating repertory company in the US. I feel like seeing his dances (and Sokolow’s masterpiece) is like a history lesson. They’ll be at the Joyce (Chelsea) through December 7th. Go here for info (and to see a little video clip).

3 Comments

  1. What a wonderfully evocative description of Anna Sokolow’s “Rooms” – this is one of my favorite works, and it’s great to read someone else’s reaction to it! If you ever have a chance to visit the NYPL for the Performing Arts, they have an incredible black-and-white video of a televised version from the 1950s that’s worth viewing.

  2. Thanks Deborah! I definitely will visit the NYPL.

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