The Annex’s colorful artwork provided a fun backdrop for the Kenyon College Dance, Drama & Cinema Club (KCDC)’s presentation and workshop on Saturday. Zoe Weiner ’24, Eve Currens ’25 and Ashley Sanchez ’26 gave a presentation about José Limón’s dance Missa Brevis, or “Short Mass.” Limón’s family immigrated from Culiacán, Mexico, in 1915, when Limón was about seven years old. His mother’s family was descended from Indigenous peoples living in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, whereas his father’s family was of French and Spanish descent. Hiding his Indigenous ancestry as he grew up had a big effect on Limón’s work. His art is filled with symbols of Mexican history and identity, and his choreography debuted against the backdrop of Great Depression-era anti-immigrant sentiments. He inaugurated the State Department’s international exchange program with a tour to South America in 1954 and won the National Medal of Arts in 2008.
As Weiner presented, she demonstrated the Limón Technique, which is still used by the Limón Dance Company and Limón Institute. According to Professor of Dance Julie Brodie, “To this day, the Limón Dance Company is respected [among dancers] as a model of inclusivity and progressive programming that not only honors and preserves the ‘classics,’ but also commissions new works by emerging artists. The Limón Technique focuses on the idea of fall and recovery, the use of breath and a focus on human drama with themes from history, literature and religion.” Professor of Dance Balinda Craig-Quijada wrote in an email to the Collegian, “Limón was masterful at moving large groups through space in endlessly creative formations that create a powerful effect of velocity and momentum.”
Currens then shared clips of KCDC performing Missa Brevis in collaboration with The Ohio State University (OSU) dancers. “Kenyon and OSU dancers had to work together and across challenges of time and space to make this dance happen,” Brodie said. “It seemed appropriate given Missa’s theme of coming together to transcend adversity. To me that is also why this piece is special and important, as this message is just as relevant today, if not more so, as when it was created in the 1950s.”
Limón was inspired by his experiences in post-World-War-II Poland and his choreography is set to music composed by Zoltán Kodály during the siege of Budapest. The dancers’ bodies moved fluidly, drawing attention to certain moments in the song “Credo.” One of the young girls in attendance pointed out afterward, “The dancers were moving like ocean waves.”
After showing the clips of the dance team as a whole, Weiner performed a solo from the piece, gracefully navigating around the small Annex space. She kept time with the dramatic music, adjusting her speed with strong and controlled movements. After performing, she said, “It’s been interesting to see how the dance changes in different spaces.”
“The dancers are meant to perform emotion itself, ‘showing, not telling’ the audience what they should be feeling, and this made for a fascinating audience experience,” Thomas Metcalf ’26, a Gund Associate working at the event, wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Watching both clips of the work and Zoe’s performance gave me a surreal sense of grief, which surprised and impressed me as a response I’d never felt to a dance performance before.”
The event ended with a workshop full of breathing and movement exercises. As participants hopped, walked and ran as one, Limón’s original themes of community and overcoming differences were evident. As Craig-Quijada wrote in an email to the Collegian, “[The workshop] was a ‘moving’ way to connect to the dance and to create a mini-community with each other. Through the shared movement experiences, this multi-generational group of attendees felt the power of dance and connection.” At The Annex last Saturday, the Kenyon College Department of Dance created a space for people of different ages, skill levels and educations to engage with Limón’s masterpiece.
Every attendee received reserved seats for the performance at 7 p.m. at the Knox Memorial Theater, where the Kenyon College Dance Program, the Kent State Dance Ensemble, The Ohio State University Department of Dance, the Personal Movement Group (an organization for senior dancers in Mount Vernon) and the Wiggin St. Elementary School Dancers will all be performing on Saturday. As Craig-Quijada wrote, “The Kenyon and OSU Missa performers really understand the Limón style and their performance of Missa Brevis provides a rare and truly unique opportunity to witness a classic come to life.”
Brodie wrote of the upcoming performance, “I hope our audience on the 10th will be inspired by the power of so many bodies moving together onstage, connected through breath, dance, and the incredible choral music… I also hope the program as a whole will expand people’s perception of what modern dance entails, who can dance, and what amazing resources we have in the region.”