QUASI-WALTZ (1929) (Scriabin)
1 woman; 1 minute, 45 seconds
Set to a delicate ripple of melodies in three-quarter time,
the dancer runs and skips, sways and turns, giving the
impression of abandon by carefully planned effects.
- Marcia Siegel
SARABANDE (1928) (Rameau-Godovsky)
1 woman; 3 minutes
A study in aristocratic deportment, Sarabande is
based on the early Spanish-Moorish dance form zarabanda. The performer twists and swirls in her extensive long
gown, manipulating the fabric as if displaying herself to
an imaginary onlooker.
SCHERZO WALTZ, also known as HOOP DANCE (1924) (Ilgenfritz)
1 woman; 3 minutes
This delightful dance is a solo game with a large wooden hoop.
The dancer extends the realm of her world as she rolls the
hoop and skips playfully through its circumference then hoists
it over her head like an Art Deco sculpture. During its time
of creation, Hoop Dance was imitated throughout the world
in both dance and sculpture.
THE BANSHEE (1928) (Cowell) 1 woman; 3 minutes
In Gaelic folklore the banshee foretells the oncoming of death.
Extricated limbs slither out from behind a short screen which
doubles as a tombstone. The wailing creature finally emerges
from behind the screen, but it is too late.
THE CALL/BREATH OF FIRE (1929 30) (Rudhyar)
1 woman; 3.5 minutes
These dramatic solos, performed together, represent a statement
about the early development of modern dance as well as about
the growth of the individual. Miss Humphreys own notes
are: The dissonant power of Rudhyars music fitly
expresses the call to a new vision, which is followed by a
shriving of the old body and old ideas through the purification
of fire. The reference may be taken as an allusion to
Miss Humphreys break with Denishawn in 1928 and to her
creation of a new form of dance or, more abstractly, to a
process by which a person matures.
TWO ECSTATIC THEMES: CIRCULAR DESCENT AND POINTED ASCENT
(1931) (Medtner and Malipiero)
1 woman; 6 minutes, 20 seconds
In this unusually pure example of modern dance, the choreographer
deliberately avoids the balletic. The soloist uses her torso
as the source of movement, adding arm or leg gestures as a
consequence of the torsos action or as counterbalances
or as assertions. Gravity is shown as a pull you cannot escape
and must live with. Circular Descent is about
the yielding of a strong woman who gives way reluctantly;
her circling is voluptuous and circuitous the planted
feet and active thighs could spring her upright again if she
wanted. As soon as she falls, she begins Pointed Ascent, jutting out an elbow, a knee, gathering her weight in
order to press upward. To finish, she is triumphantly vertical,
and the statement is: I understand passion, but I will not
be ruled by it. Deborah Jowitt
VALSE CAPRICE, also known as SCARF DANCE (1920) (Chaminade)
1 woman; 4 minutes
This solo marks the beginning of Doris Humphreys professional
career. Using a fifteen foot length of China silk, the dancer
manipulates the scarf into a variety of shapes resembling
liquid calligraphy. Many years later in her autobiography,
Doris Humphrey referred to it as her dance with a long
scarf which was quite brilliant.
DUO-DRAMA (1935) (Harris)
1 woman, 1 man; 22 minutes
Duo Drama represents the struggle for supremacy between
a man and a woman. The three sections (Unison and Divergence-Phantasm-Integration)
clearly reflect Humphreys early views on the equality
of the sexes. The steps are bold and angular and wonderfully
capture the spirit of the modern dance movement of the 1930s.
In seeing a revival, Deborah Jowitt of the Village Voice proclaimed
it as "one of the best new dances Ive seen in a while.
ETUDE PATETICO (1928) (Scriabin)
1 woman, 1 man; 3 minutes
Beautifully created and sculpted, this highly-charged dramatic
duet displays Humphreys early penchant for design. It
begins with a romantic embrace. Then the man, strong and independent
moves about as the woman tries to fit into his pattern. But
her own demands, which are ignored, yield to an altercation.
The romance is broken as he exits, and she is left alone.
RUDEPOEMA (1934) (Villa Lobos)
1 woman, 1 man; 20 minutes
Rudepoema charts the romantic relationship between
a man and a woman. The first section, Love Dance,
suggest the intense, intimate relationship between the two.
The second movement, Play Dance, finds the pair
poking fun at each other while spoofing the attitude of an operatic
diva and an ever-demanding man, which leads into a tug-of-war
battle. The final section, Dance to the Gods, finds
the pair in a reverential mode honoring their experiences together.
Throughout the dance, a long piece of fabric weaves about them
making inventive use of the prop as a shawl, leash and a blanket.
DAY ON EARTH (1947) (Copland)
2 women, 1 man, 1 child; 20 minutes
The age-old cycle of work, love, birth, loss, companionship,
death, and continuation, Day On Earth is the best example of
the combined humanistic and kinesthetic possibilities of modern
dance. In a completely non-literal, poetic way, but with a rich
emotional tone, it compresses a world of experience into a small,
INVENTION (1949) (Lloyd)
2 women, 1 man; 12 minutes
Frequently used as a program opener for the Limon Company, Invention is a pure dance piece, rich in ideas that are
charmingly developed, consisting of a solo, two duets, and a
trio. One can look at Invention as the depictions
of changes in a mans personality wrought by two women
or the work can be viewed for its structure alone
long, sweeping lines of undistorted dance, interestingly broken
rhythmically. Doris Hering.
LAMENT FOR IGNACIO SANCHEZ MEJIAS (1946) (Lloyd)
1 woman, 1 man, 1 actress; 24 minutes
Inspired by the poem of the same title by Federico Garcia Lorca,
movement and spoken text are woven together as the characters
relive the events of the fateful day in the life of the bullfighter.
The drama is portrayed by the Figure of a Woman (a witness and
mourner), the Figure of Destiny (majesty of the fearful events)
and Ignacio (the contender in the bullring). Powerfully moving,
the drama is intended to signify the struggle of all men of
courage and the fate to which they must go alone.
Group (fewer than ten dancers)
AIR FOR THE G STRING (1928) (Bach)
5 women; 5 minutes
This work, set to Johann Sebastian Bachs serenely soaring Air on the G String from his Orchestral Suite No.
3 in D Major, can be viewed as early evidence of Doris
Humphreys innate belief in the nobility of which the human
spirit is capable. There is not one broken, erratic gesture;
the entire dance expresses an Apollonian dream image in which
a philosophical calmness moves the mind. There is a cathedral-like
quality in the reverential gestures of the hands and in the
facial expressions, which suggest an inner exaltation in keeping
with the musics sustained spiritual mood.
FANTASY AND FUGUE (Mozart)
(first and third movements by Doris Humphrey, 1952; second movement
by Ray Cook, 1995)
4 women, 2 men; 12 -13 minutes.
A pure dance that derives its contrapuntal and fugal themes
from the music.
NIGHT SPELL (1951) (Rainier)
2 women, 2 men; 20 minutes
Night Spell presents a sleeper who is tormented by dreams
and dream figures who emerge from his night consciousness. The
nightmarish terror is dispelled and replaced by an image of
love when the sleeper ultimately clasps one of the dream figures
PARTITA (1942) (Bach)
6 women, 1 man; 8 minutes
This work, created as a respite from more serious compositions,
is a playful suite of dances based on the court dances of the
17th Century Europe and choreographed to Bachs Partita
in G Major. Doris Humphrey said that BachÉthought
it was fun to do a set of these partitas on odd Sunday afternoons,
and three centuries later people, even dancers, are entitled
to have fun too. It was built on the rhythms and shapes of folk
RITMO JONDO (1953) (Surinach)
4 women, 5 men; 12 minutes (short version)
or 4 women, 4 men; 20 minutes (long version)
To tantalizing Spanish rhythms, a band of assertive males present
themselves to a group of feminine admirers. They court them
with sweeping abandon and then leave them to attend to
more urgent matters. With its swirling, cascading motions for
the women and vibrating, thrusting steps and gestures for the
men, this work sets up a counterpoint of masculinity and femininity.
RUINS AND VISIONS (1952) (Britten)
4 women. 4 men, 43 minutes.
This is a dramatic piece inspired by a poem by Steven Spender
and in a setting that suggests the period 1914-1918." A protective
mother isolates her son from the harshness of reality; at the
theatre they watch unmoved as an actor-lover murders his mistress;
in the street they ignore the newsboy whose papers announce
war. Finally, when the son is brought back dead from battle,
the various characters, united by grief, relinquish their artificial
self-involvement to face reality together." - Selma Jeanne Cohen
SOARING (1920) (Schumann)
5 women; 3 minutes, 30 seconds
An alternately calm and stormy fantasy that interprets Schumanns Aufshwung and Doris Humphreys own vision of the
lyrical idea of wind, wave and cloud in fleeting form of a great
veil. One of the most beloved dances of the Denishawn
repertoire, Soaring was created with the assistance of Ruth
St. Denis as music visualization.
SONATA PATHETIQUE (1920) (Beethoven)
7 women; 11 minutes
Strong, emphatic chords of the piano set the tone for this early
music visualization. A cluster of women, far upstage left, charge
the open space as if venturing heroically into the future. The
soloist commandeers the group into an array of formations until
finally they resist and all sink to the ground, leaving the
soloist standing upright as if declaring victory.
Group (ten or more dancers)
BRANDENBURG CONCERTO NUMBER 4 (1958 59) (Bach)
8 women, 3 men; 8 minutes
Ruth Currier, who completed this final work when Doris Humphrey
was unable to continue, says that it is a gentle and happy
celebration of the place you find yourself inÉa meadow or clearing
in the woods. In the beginning, a solo figure greets four
others who celebrate with her. Two more are invited in. A trio
enters, as if in a dream. The piece is restrained in the sense
that it is not an emotional outpouring, but there is always
feeling in the root. Each of the three movements contains a
particular mood: 1) pleasant, gracious, with a kind of elegance;
2) a lament; 3) bright, alive, and vibrant.
DANCE OVERTURE (1957) (Creston)
5 women, 6 men; 11 minutes
This work beautifully captures the exuberance and power of ensemble
work. Excerpted phrases from the Humphrey-Limon repertory are
woven together, much like those of a musical overture, and offer
a sampling of various phrases and styles of movement. The large
orchestral score serves as the proper accompaniment for this
grand scale work.
GRIEG PIANO CONCERTO IN A MINOR, FIRST MOVEMENT (1928) (Grieg)
15 or 17 women; 12 minutes
With its Art Deco set, consisting of steps and a platform in
front of a gold screen, the dance evokes early modernism. The
music is romantic, but dance is revolutionary. Using strong
movements, the lead dancer shapes the ensemble in her image
and steers them away from weak, ineffectual movements to a powerful
conclusion, underscored by the groups emphatic heel beats.
LIFE OF THE BEE (1929) (Hindemith)
8 women, 3 men; 13 minutes
Inspired by Maurice Maeterlincks book by the same name, Life of the Bee is a dramatic dance based on the struggle
of a young queen to rise to her destined position in the hive,
replace its aging ruler, and to retain that position in the
face of new challenges. The dance is pervaded with a continuous,
fluctuating current of energy, the ceaseless activity of the
NEW DANCE, complete version (1935) (Riegger)
6 women, 4 men; 35 minutes
In symphonic form, New Dance is a dance of affirmation, proceeding
from disorganization to organization , in which the group is
led by the principal male and female dancers in a series of
themes to become a unified whole. Once unified, the "Variations
and Conclusion" demonstrates the place of the individual within
NEW DANCE: VARIATIONS AND CONCLUSION (1935) (Riegger)
6 women, 4 men; 8 minutes
The Variations and Conclusion from New Dance represents a democratic world where each person has a clear
and harmonious relationship to his fellow beings. Each dancer
steps forward from the group to perform an individualistic variation,
then rejoins the other dancers. Its mood is one of animation,
energy, and joyousness of spirit, ending with all of the dancers
turning, reversing and turning again in a rousing conclusion.
PASSACAGLIA AND FUGUE (1938) (Bach)
13 women, 3 men; 14 minutes
A vision of an ideal world where the inhabitants live in peaceful
accord with one another, this dance expresses the choreographers
conviction that man is potentially capable of creating such
a utopia. Choreographically, its concept matches the grandeur
of Bachs music. Doris Humphrey explained that she had
treated the piece as an abstraction with dramatic overtones.
The minor melody, according to the traditional Passacaglia form,
insistently repeated from beginning to end, seems to say, ÔHow
can a man be saved and be content in a world of infinite despair?
And in the magnificent fugue which concludes the dance, the
answer seems to mean ÔBe saved by love and courage. The
dance was inspired by the need for love, tolerance, and nobility
in a world given more and more to the denial of these things.
SONG OF THE WEST: DESERT (1940) (Roy Harris)
12 women, 4 men; 11 minutes
This piece, celebrating the American West, originally was performed
in three sections: Rivers, The Green Land, and Desert. The only
surviving one, Desert, is a tense group ceremonial of primitive
worship of sun and space.
THE LIBATION BEARERS (1933) (Milhaud)
10 women, 1 man; 22 minutes
Based on the Ancient Greek play of the same title by Aeschylus,
this powerful dance rendition is told in bold choric patterns,
with shuddering details. The chorus races through the space
in a frenzy, throwing their bodies back and forth, and wildly
twisting from side to side in their lament for the murdered
King Agamemnon. There is much use of "xeronomia" (ancient Greek
for "hand gestures"), which deploy the emotions they feel. Clawing
at their cheeks and gnawing the dirt beneath their feet, they
all sink to exhaustion and wait for Orestes to appear to avenge
the murder of his father. The chorus rejoices in his appearance
with spiraling movements and wild, abandoned leaps.
THE SHAKERS (1931) (traditional)
6 women, 5 men; 9 minutes
This dance, based on Shaker ritual, is about religious purification
achieved through ecstasy. The design is wrought of small quaverings
and tremblings that increase to violent shakings and twistings
of the whole body, of running half-falls and single wild jumps
into the air.
WATER STUDY (1928) (silence)
10 women; 11 minutes
Water Study conjures up a variety of sea moods ranging
from calm to tidal and wind-driven turbulence. Performed in
silence, the dance demonstrates Humphreys signature uses
of fall and recovery and breath rhythm. It calls for ensemble
work of the most subtle and complex order: completely synchronized
rhythmic timing among the dancers.
WITH MY RED FIRES (1936) (Riegger)
large cast; 30 minutes
With My Red Fires takes its theme from the lines in
William Blakes poem Jerusalem: For the
Divine Appearance is Brotherhood, but I am Love Elevate into
the Region of Brotherhood with my red fires. It deals
with the power of love maternal, romantic, and fraternal
and its capacity for passionate and destructive excesses.
It concludes with a vision of human brotherhood that prevails
over prejudice and violence.
The dramatic plot revolves around two lovers whose relationship
is strongly disapproved by the girls mother (the Matriarch).
With dictatorial flurry, she rouses a submissive group into
a frenzy of violent persecution against the lovers but
in the process becomes so overwrought that she destroys herself.
In the end, the lovers are transfigured in an embrace that suggest
the equal respect of one human being for another.