Founding company member Jenn Bassage Bonfil has temporarily relocated to the state of New York. Her husband, Avi, is finishing his Phd in Psychology and needed his final clinical work. After applying all over the nation (and we mean ALL OVER; Anchorage, AK and Larned, KS were in the running) Avi was placed at an Internship site in Poughkeepsie, New York working for the Dutchess County Department of Mental Health. After much deliberation, Jenn decided to take a leave-of-absence from her life in California and join her husband on a year long adventure. We asked Jenn to share more about her big move and the dance scene she is experiencing in the Big Apple.
What have you been up to since moving to New York?
In September I began the Limón Institute's Professional Studies Program, an intensive nine-month course designed to train and educate us in the traditions of the Limón Dance Company’s founders (José Limón and Doris Humphrey). The program includes daily classes in Limón Technique, special workshops, theory, rehearsal sessions, and performance opportunities. The faculty includes former and current members of the Limón Company as well as Artistic Director, Carla Maxwell.
During the first half of the course we learn excerpts from Limón’s Psalm, Humphrey’s Water Study and Maxwell’s Etude. The second half will provide us with the opportunity to learn and perform a solo from the company’s repertory, be part of an original piece and conduct research in the foundation’s archives.
How is the Limón Technique similar or different from BD Technique?
Jenny’s style has some Limón characteristics – double bounce, moving your torso over a neutral pelvis, the use of pendular movements with momentum – so every now and then I feel like I am back in class with BD. The Limón technique though, has a much more formal look to it versus the athletic look BD in known for.
On a more trivial note, in California a percussionist accompanied 98% of my modern classes. Here, because I am studying a technique that places so much importance on the rhythm of the steps, I hear all piano. One of the pianists adds to the intricacy of the rhythms with his voice, Bobby McFerrin style. It is a very unique and inspiring sound.
What is the highlight of the Limón Professional Studies Program?
Until this experience, my knowledge of the modern dance pioneers came mainly from books and lectures by people who read other books. Working with people who danced with José Limón himself, is pretty incredible. Ray Cook, the 80 year old that taught us Water Study did so by reading the Labanotation score. He would often interrupt the rehearsal with a great story from his career. He would tell us stories about what it was like to work with José, what kinds of things Doris Humphrey would say to her dancers, and about a conversation he had with Helen Tamiris in a taxi cab. To hear accounts from people who worked with the creators of our art form is mind-blowing.
How is daily life in the Big Apple different than California?
Two days after my last show with BD we sold my car. Life in NY is very different than in LA. Every day I take the train for an hour and 20 minutes from Beacon to Grand Central Station, transfer to the subway, then walk the last leg of my commute to the studio. Once there though, I guess it’s not that different. Within the Limón community it’s starting to feel like a family, and even though communicating verbally is sometimes a challenge (I am one of only four whose native tongue is English) we all speak dance.
What do you miss most about BD?
I miss my friends! BD is like family and life isn’t the same without my daily interactions with everyone. As far as dancing goes, we don’t spend nearly enough time on the floor or upside down in Limón technique. I also miss the partnering work a lot. I haven’t picked anyone up in months.
Well, we miss you Jenn and look forward to your return to California! Thank you for taking the time to share about your experiences with the Limón Institute in New York City.