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Mexican-American culture, dance take center stage at Northrop

The Limón Dance Company is rethinking José Limón’s mid-century performances for modern audiences.
Image by Courtesy of Nadia Halim
The Limón Dance Company will be coming to Northrop in November.

The Limón Dance Company is bringing Mexican-American history and culture to the Northrop stage in November.

The Nov. 18 performance will be a part of Northrop’s Centennial Commissions programming, celebrating the venue’s upcoming 100th anniversary in 2029. The performance will connect Mexican-American history, modern dance and University of Minnesota students, according to Kristen Brogdon, director of artistic and community programs at Northrop.

Brogdon believes dance’s status as a non-verbal live artform can unite speakers of different languages. “Through these embodied experiences, it activates people’s empathy in a really unique way,” Brogdon said.

The performance will include “Psalm,” a piece in which University dance students will join the Limón company.

In another piece from the performance titled “Migrant Mother,” New York-based dancer Frances Lorraine Samson will reimagine Limón’s award-winning work.

“It can speak when words are inadequate expressions of our emotions,” Samson said in an email to the Minnesota Daily. Samson added that the Limón style of dance emphasizes humanity and these performances would use that style to convey themes of heritage, identity, conflict and freedom.

“Migrant Mother” was choreographed by Raúl Tamez, the first Mexican choreographer in the company’s history. He investigated every aspect of the culture he was trying to convey, according to Samson.

“Raúl used his unique sociological, anthropological and personal perspectives to capture the spirit and honor the people of Mexico,” Samson said.

Samson said her performances aim to provoke thought in her audience about current social issues. Despite its mid-20th century conception, Limón’s work contains timeless reflections of society.

Brogdon said Northrop found importance in highlighting the work of Latino artists, like Limón and Tamez, and gave a literal platform to female performers of color like Samson.

The decision to highlight historically marginalized communities on Northrop’s stage stems from a budgeting pledge, according to Brogdon. The pledge is a 10-year commitment to ensuring 20% of programming and 30% of their budget goes toward supporting artists of color, women and LGBTQ artists.

UMN student danceragrees the Northrop stage gives women of color opportunities to show themselves and their vulnerabilities. Dance encourages the audience to internalize the performance in a way unlike other art forms, according to Guntipally.

As someone who has previously performed on the Northrop stage, Guntipally applauded the venue’s ability to bring incredible dancers to students and show what the dance world has to offer.

First-year University students can take advantage of the First Year Free Ticket Program, which allows them to receive a free ticket to any Northrop performance. The Northrop Across Campus program allows faculty and students to attend performances relevant to their class for free. If neither of those apply, students can get rush tickets the day of the show for $10.

“Our audiences will experience history through a diverse range of work, all striking, resilient and ground breaking in their creation,” Samson said. “The program honors the past and brings our legacy forward.”

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