Magazine article Dance Magazine

Ralph Lemon Company

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Ralph Lemon Company

Article excerpt

This season marked the end of the Ralph Lemon Company after ten years of existence. Lemon, who will continue to accept choreographic commissions in addition to pursuing a new interest in the recorded image, has been - or, I must say, was once - one of the freshest voices in modern dance. The "narrative" (that is, overtly situational or character-based) works that first brought him to wide attention had a directness, a strength, and a sense of conviction that bespoke an artist of unusual sincerity and emotional capacity, a warm, generous courageous human being.

But it seems to have been those some qualities of character that led him, about four or five years ago, to make what I believe to have been a serious artistic error: the abandonment of narrative for a more abstract, exploratory approach. Lemon now produces movement through a primarily inward, intuitive process, seeking to allow feeling and form to emerge spontaneously from this rawer material. But instead of achieving a more genuine self-expression, the new approach has only taken the man away from us, and has made his choreography far weaker to boot.

The problem is that feeling and form do not emerge spontaneously from the material that Lemon presents. True, Their Eyes Rolled Back in Ecstasy (1992), the better of the two major works presented this season, does contain passages where structure holds together long enough for emotion to begin to gather. Unisons appear from amidst a swirl of individualized phrases. A quiet duet, amplified and offset by the presence of a third dancer, gives way to another and then another. Images recur: a hand held softly before the face; a thudding, double-footed jump. Through repetition, the common-place kindles into beauty. But coherence is the exception here. Emotions dissolve before they can come into focus; situations remain generalized. The title suggests a theme as well as a mood, but very little of what we see appears to have much to do with either one. …

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