Jennifer Scanlon, in Utah to set Jose Limon's "There is a Time" on RDT, exuded an air of calm security, a sense of inner grace that won't let her hurry or dither through her work. When someone asked her, "Are you going to work us to death?" she replied, "Oh, no - I hope I work you to life!"
Such serenity reflected her antecedents in the Jose Limon Company that nurtured her for more than 20 years; a secure, orderly company approaching its half-century milestone, close to its roots in the Doris Humphrey technique - the sort of company that "they don't make any more.""Jose had Doris Humphrey for his artistic director for 13 years, from 1945 until her death in 1958," said Scanlon, "and she had a remarkable influence on him." One of only a few companies that have survived the death of a charismatic leader, the Limon Company is still going strong almost 20 years after his death.
"You are feeling the beginnings of things in yourselves," she told the dancers. "Don't smother those beginnings. Direct your energy specifically enough and you will be able to grow in this movement."
Scanlon spent 20 years (1963-84) with the Limon Company, coming to him via the Juilliard School, where he was teaching. "It was either him or Martha Graham," she said. "I had had only bad ballet up to that time. When I was studying at Jacob's Pillow, Jean Cebron suggested Limon would be best for me."
Scanlon doesn't believe that people today, with their more fleeting allegiances, realize what went into such a company as Limon's. "We lived together, worked together year after year; we took on one style, and our repertory grew," she said.
"When Limon died, we just never thought that there wouldn't still be a company," said Scanlon. "We had bookings in the Soviet Union and in Paris, we had to go on. Ruth Currier took over for awhile, and we danced Jose's pieces, and Humphrey's.
"Lucas Hoving made some dances, and we did `The Green Table' by Kurt Jooss, works by Murray Louis, Clay Tagliaferro, Carla Maxwell, Jiri Kilian and Jean Cebron. Carla Maxwell is now the artistic director. The Limon Company has had to broaden its base and develop choreographers, but it still keeps a community of attitude, it is basically the same as it has always been."
Scanlon now lives in western Massachusetts. She teaches at the Boston Conservatory, fulfills Limon technique residencies and sets his choreographies, and teaches the Alexander technique of body alignment and usage.
"Today's dancers have lost the dynamic," she said. "Limon's style embodies and expresses the best in mankind. It is grounded in humanism. He believed that you must struggle in life, there must be opposition, and your adversary is gravity. His philosophy was closely related to Humphrey's theory of fall and recovery.
"Limon believed in use of the total being to express a clearly defined idea, but each body must orchestrate that idea according to its own abilities and vision. For him, abstract dance was emptiness. And he was a very musical person, he insisted on musicality in his dancers. The music went even deeper than sound, though. He felt that each dance had a resonance, which you could almost hear, in the absence of sound - an aura all its own which the dancers must create." - By Dorothy Stowe