Spring weather came early to Philadelphia on Wednesday, and birds and other winged creatures appeared on stage when the Limón Dance Company celebrated its 70th anniversary with a tour stop at the Prince Theater, where the troupe are performing through Sunday.
This weekend, the company is presenting three of the greatest works by its late founder, José Limón. They include The Winged, which Limón created in 1966, and which current artistic director Carla Maxwell reset in 1995 to a score by Jon Magnussen reminiscent of bird calls and whistles.
The Winged is a feast of flight and freedom, with the dancers - employing everything from tiny hummingbirdlike vibrations to a series of split jumps - representing a variety of birds, sphinxes, Pegasuses, and the buoyancy of the human spirit. They form fluttering lines, and poke their heads out from offstage to peer at one another in a soothing, soaring work. Dance is a bit like flying, and there are many bird ballets, but this was a breath of welcome spring air.
The evening opened with Mazurkas, choreographed in 1958, and set to music by Chopin. This series of mostly duets and solos was created as a tribute to the people of Poland after World War II, but it, too, evoked the impending warmth outdoors, with breezy steps. "Opus 41, No. 1," the first duet, was especially delightful, with Logan Frances Kruger and Francisco Ruvalcaba springing past each other in a small, leaping pattern.
The Moor's Pavane, first performed in 1949, is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of American dance, and one that alone is worth the price of admission. A loosely told 20-minute version of Othello, and set to music by Henry Purcell, it is a series of quartets performed Wednesday night by Ruvalcaba as the Moor, Roxane D'Orleans-Juste as the Moor's Wife, the scheming Ross Katen as His Friend, and the duplicitous Kathryn Alter as His Friend's Wife.
A Renaissance dance performed in rich velvet costumes, could also be called Much Ado About a Handkerchief, and Alter offered an especially layered performance, befriending D'Orleans-Juste, stealing her precious kerchief, and then allowing it to be used as evidence against her friend.
Limón Dance Company, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. The Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut St. Tickets: $37-$57. Information: 215-422-4580 or princetheater.org.