It is a unique opportunity to be able to witness Pilar Rioja and Limón Company’s principal dancer, Roxane D’Orléans Juste, bring traditional and modern dance together on the same stage. “Two Styles, One Passion,” showcases the legacy of Limón and Rioja, two Mexican-born maestros, and highlights the tremendous power of two brilliant women performers. From August 21 through August 26, these two opposing, but equally passionate, dancers will set your emotions on fire at El Repertorio Español.
In the modern part of the program, Roxane D´Orléans Juste performed three Spanish and Mexican-influenced dances from the Limón Company’s repertoire. The Bessie Award-winning performer, and Montreál native, commanded the stage with precision, liquidness and lightness. In José Limon’s Chaconne, Juste performed a chaconne (a dance form originally from colonial Mexico) to Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor. Smoothly transitioning from noble poses to ecstatic movements, she opened her chest to the ceiling in dramatic abandon, embodying the profound emotional range of the music.
In Donald McKayle’s Angelitos Negros, her body echoed Manuel Alvarez Maciste’s poignant song, asking “Painter, why are there no black angels in your canvas?” For this Afro-Hispanic inspired piece, she danced with powerful gestures and a mirada intensa- looking in the mirror of her hand, burning the audience with her gaze. In the end, she embodied the beautiful black angel of Maciste’s song, spinning in a yellow and black Spanish-inspired costume as she reached for heaven.
In Daniel Nagrin’s Spanish Dance, Juste joyfully and elegantly became both the toro and the matador, executing precise footwork with sensual curved arms and body. She seduced the audience as the bullfighter might seduce prey, or as a mistress might seduce her bullfighter.
The flamenco portion of the concert was choreographed and performed by the passionate and commanding Pilar Rioja. The internationally renowned dancer mixes her versatile training in classical and modern dance with traditional flamenco. Rioja was born in Mexico to parents from the Rioja region of Spain, and her dancing, no doubt, reflects the mature and intoxicating flavor of the region’s wine. Flocked by her entourage of male guitarists and singers, one got the feeling that it was she who was leading the music and not vice versa.
In Lorquianas (Café de Chinitas, El Vito), arranged for piano by Federico García Lorca, Rioja sent us dreaming of 1930’s Andalusia, as she twirled in an emerald green and lace dress, transforming her fans into weapons of seduction, bulls-horns and flowers. At times she looked into the distance with such authority as to command our attention, at others she smiled to herself as if imagining another time and place far away. When her castanets seemed to run away from her hands, she playfully caught them with her gaze.
In the first premier of the night, Rioja performed Bambera, becoming a curving vision in the myriad folds of her purple dress. Elegantly performing fast footwork while maintaining a dignified spiraled posture, she appeared to be a peacock or a dragon, hypnotizing the audience with her regal stare.
Her second premier was St. Teresa’s Poem, a stylized flamenco piece inspired by St. Teresa de Avila with music by Carlos Surinach. She appeared in three short songs, cloaked in the folds of her long white dress. As she slowly demonstrated sad and tender movements, she seemed to transform herself into a living statue of the Virgin Mary, celebratory, mourning, and saintly.
In Tientos Tangos, this time, Rioja became not a peacock, but a firebird, in her red dress; burning the stage with her feet, as if stamping on fire. The folds of her skirt seemed to catch flame as extensions of her powerful emotion, recalling the passion of some great love affair.
Rioja spun the audience into an ecstatic trance with her final dance, Bulerias y Rumba Flamenca, which fused Afro-Cuban rumbas, Colombianas, and guajiras with flamenco. With her mascara dripping a black tear down her cheek, she danced with such wild and joyful abandon that her long trenza almost became undone and almost let the red rose fly from her hair. Here, she was a female matadora, and we, the audience, were subdued like bulls following the red flags of her dress. Her plumage of skirts and trembling wing-hands summoned us to her spiraling hips in a blissful ritual. As the musicians clapped their hands and sang “Qui quiri vu, Mandinga,” she transformed herself into some kind a marvelous Caribbean gypsy goddess, sending the audience clapping, singing and dancing in their seats as the curtain went down.
This is a performance that you can’t miss- ¡Disfruten la pasión de estas dos eminencias en la danza!