Bradley Shelver on Touring with the Limon Dance Company and Rehearsing for the Elan Awards Showcase

October 26, 2008

The Limón Dance Company recently spent six weeks in the studio discussing, fixing and rehearsing our next show: a mixed repertory program with pieces by Lar Lubovitch and José Limón. Spending so much time in the studio made everyone miss being on stage, so we were more than ready to take our show on the road to Cleveland. The trip also served as a trial run for our tour that started in October. Early one Thursday morning, 24 people—including the dancers, lighting designers, carpenters, costume, set and prop designers, production stage manager, artistic director, company manager and executive director—went to Cleveland.

The first evening there, we went to a reception in our honor at the Cleveland Public Library. Since Cleveland was one of the first places to host José Limón, in the ’50s, the community felt a special connection to our work. This year marks the company’s 60th anniversary, so we were prepared for, and looked forward to, long tours filled with parties like this one, hard work, press conferences and outreach work. We knew the next few days would be stressful and long, so we embraced the opportunity to relax a little and talk with people who support us.

The next day began with a community lecture demonstration, followed by a five-hour technical rehearsal for our new ballet, choreographed by Lubovitch. We spent three hours just rehearsing what happens backstage; as a company, we had never worked on a production of this scale before. In the 26-minute piece, many of us had four or five costume changes, so fast that they had to be timed to the second. We also made the set changes part of the choreography, because there wasn’t enough time for the crew to do them, and union regulations prevent anyone but crew members from making set changes. Working in a union theater has other challenges, such as adhering to break regulations and use of the stage.

Lubovitch also brought his designers with him, and it was phenomenal to see how the costumes, sets and lighting came together seamlessly. As a performer, you can’t always see the big picture of a piece. Because this was the first time we had worked with these sets and costumes, we spent a lot of time figuring out how they would work together. After teching one more ballet—a revival of Limón’s A Choreographic Offering, complete with new costumes and lighting—we left the theater excited for opening night. It was exhilarating to finally perform our work in front of 2,800 people at the huge State Theatre in Cleveland.

Back in NYC

After returning from my four-day stay in Cleveland, next on my itinerary was a technical rehearsal for my own piece, The Decision Theory, a duet for a man and a woman set to jazz music (composed by Anthony Rutt) that premiered at the 2005 Elan Awards in NYC in October. It’s difficult to be a full-time performer, part-time teacher and new choreographer. I had been rehearsing with my dancers in the evenings, after we had spent eight hours rehearsing with our own full-time companies. I have found this kind of dedication throughout the industry. I’m constantly inspired by performers like Limón veteran Roxanne D’Orleans Juste, who has been with the company for more than 20 years, Pedro Ruiz of Ballet Hispanico, and Dudley Williams, who spent 38 years with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Each of these dancers gives an extraordinary amount of time, work, artistry and vision to the artform.

It’s a gift to witness Lubovitch command a tech rehearsal and to see our own artistic director, Carla Maxwell, recreate, coach and rehearse works like it’s second nature. I feel lucky to have such first-hand experiences, to learn from amazing people, and to have the chance to expand my own creativity and knowledge.