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Shedding Light in Dark Spaces

You won’t find Time & Space Limited’s newest project in an art gallery. But, you might find it when you take out your trash.

The Hudson Alley Project 2002 is Time & Space Limited’s latest attempt to bring community involvement into the visual arts. Mixing art and history, the Hudson Alley project aims to teach Hudson’s residents about the cities’ most-overlooked areas: alleys, back doors and the backs of buildings.

“We’re looking at the alleys,” Time & Space Limited President Linda Mussmann says. “There’s no opinions or judgment, we just want to document what was here in 2002.”

To kick off the Hudson Alley Project earlier this spring, Mussmann and her staff placed four colored boxes on the alley side of five buildings. Each box’s color corresponded with a different thought: fears, hopes, complaints or suggestions. Time & Space Limited then encouraged Hudson’s residents to drop a note in each box, involving their “fears, hopes, complaints or suggestions.”

“We created the boxes to get people thirsty . . . to invite them to think about the alleys,” Mussmann says. “I want to turn people loose and let them think about what these buildings were originally used for.”

Though the Hudson Alley Project will officially open with a reception on June 2, the project is an ongoing effort to document the narrow, little roadways that run behind many of the city’s major streets. Mussmann has collected a series of recent photographs recording Hudson’s alleys, as well as past photographs of Hudson that put each alley in its historical framework. Time & Space Limited is also organizing a group of children to paint a mural on the back of one building, to turn an unused area of the city into a giant canvas.

“They’re really no-man’s-lands,” Muss mann says of some of the more decrepit and forgotten alleyways. “This project is one where we can open it up, and there will be more input from people.”

By talking with longtime Hudson residents and elderly community members, Mussmann has learned a great deal about Hudson’s history and how many buildings have been transformed since they were originally erected.

“I’m from the Midwest, where no one used their front door,” Mussmann says. “A lot of these faded buildings and run-down buildings have history.”

After the project’s official opening is held, Mussmann and her team hope people will come to her with new ideas about how to document Hudson’s alleys and uncover their long-overlooked history.

—Mike Greenhaus

Martin Banjamin

The Times Union Shall be Released

Bet you didn’t even know the Times Union had a gospel choir quartet. But last Thursday (May 23), singing staffers from the Capital Region’s daily newspaper [including Steve Barnes, arts editor; Dave Malachowski, music critic; Greg Haymes, writer/critic; and Mike Eck, critic] belted out a version of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” at Union College’s Old Chapel Hall. Union’s Dale Metzger and local musician Kevin Maul played percussion for the ensemble. The occasion? “Highway 61,” Union’s third annual celebration of Dylan’s birthday.

Dancing in the Present, Honoring the Past

How is it possible for a modern dance company to survive nearly 30 years beyond the founder’s death? Martha Graham’s legacy is threatened by legal battles over the rights to perform her dances. Alvin Ailey’s repertory survives, but the current dancers elevate technique over meaning. All the forces of economics and fashion line up against the fragile life of a dance company.

Yet, the Limón Dance Company, now approaching its 56th year, has triumphed. One reason is the persistence of artistic director Carla Maxwell, a veteran Limón dancer who has led the company since 1976. Maxwell has restored faded dances and commissioned new works that, though they reflect the style of their contemporary choreographers, are true to the spirit of José Limón.

That spirit is the most profound reason Limón lives and thrives. His dances, grounded in a technique that makes weight and gravity the dancers’ friends, and buoyed by a humanistic vision that celebrates a community of dancers, are timeless.

Maxwell says the heart of Limón’s aesthetic is “virtuosic ensemble dancing,” Which would seem to be a contradiction in terms. However, it’s exactly what the audience can expect to see when the company dances Psalm on Saturday, June 8, at the Egg. Psalm, is a 1967 Limón work reconstructed by Maxwell as part of the troupe’s most recent project, Limón and Jazz. Remade to new music—a polyrhythmic score for orchestra and chamber chorus by Jon Magnussen—Psalm had its world premiere in Febrary at the Cultural Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“José felt that solo work couldn’t emerge without the community of ensemble dancers to support it. He did a lot of work with what he called the ‘collective individual,’ ” Maxwell has said.

The Limón and Jazz project springs from the interplay between soloist and group that defines both jazz and dances like Psalm. Another work from the project, Cross Roads by Donald McKayle, also will be danced at the Egg. McKayle’s African-influenced ensemble dance, to music by jazz flutist James Newton, plays out the mutual hostility between two tribal groups, and then transcends it in a duet between star-crossed lovers.

In true Limón spirit, the program looks backward and forward through two brief works, Doris Humphrey’s Invention (1949) and Maxwell’s Etude (2002). Humphrey, whose technique of fall and recovery influenced that of Limón, made Invention for Limón’s company, for which she was codirector. In Etude, a solo created to embody Limón’s way of dancing so today’s dancers can study and perform it, Maxwell distills the essence of Psalm and other works by her mentor.

Living history is the theme of the Limón Dance company’s three-week residency at Skidmore, now through June 20. Past and present company members have gathered for a series of events that are open to the public. The first event at 7:30 PM, Tuesday, June 4, in the Skidmore Dance Theater, is a talk on the Limón legacy by Nina Watt, probably the most senior member of the company. She’d the golden-haired one who dances Desdemona in The Moor’s Pavane and who personifies Laughter in There is a Time.

At 8 PM Wednesday, June 5, in the Dance Theater, a panel of past and present company members, probably including Clay Taliaferro and Gary Masters, will continue the discussion.

Masters will host a video lecture on Limón at 8 PM Wednesday, June 12, in the Dance Theater. An open company rehearsal is set for 5:30-6:30 PM Thursday, June 13, in the Dance Center Studios; and a company showing of a work reconstructed during the residency begins at 8 PM, Thursday, June 20, at the Dance Theater.

These generous dancers also will teach an unprecedented number of classes open to people of all ages and all levels of dance experience. The schedule follows:

7:30 PM Thursdays, June 6 and 13 and Wednesday June 19 in the Dance Center Studios: Three master classes for advanced and intermediate dances. Registration is at the door. Fee is $10 per class.

7 PM Tuesdays, June 11 and 18 in the Dance Center Studios: Two dance classes for adults aged 55 and older, led by Limón master teacher Clay Taliaferro. Call 580-5595 for details.

10-11:30 AM Saturday, June 8 in the Dance Center Studios: Family Dance for the Community. Three simultaneous classes directed by Limón master teachers. Adults 55 and older (Taliaferro); adults 55 and younger (Alice Condodina); and teens age 12-18 (Gary Masters). No dance experience necessary. Admission is free.

For more information, call 580-5590.

—Mae G. Banner


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