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OGDEN -- The Jose Limon Dance Company offered two important premieres plus its "Limon and Jazz" program in performances Wednesday and Thursday at Weber State University's Browning Center. The big news was the restaging of Limon's "Psalm" by Artistic Director Carla Maxwell.

Jon Magnussen's commissioned score was hauntingly beautiful. The dancers flowed across the stage with breathtaking musicality and astonishing, precise speed.

Limon patterned the piece after the Lamed-Vov, the 36 "Just Ones" of Jewish legend who take to themselves the suffering of the world. (Ballet West's Paul Murphy helped by finding background material.) Neither a literal nor a linear retelling of the legend, the dance refers to its intensity of suffering that renders some Just Ones numb to the glories of Paradise.

Even with Maxwell's retooling of the choreography, "Psalm" remains the work of a creative genius forced to confront his own mortality. The floor patterns Lim-n created are as complex as they are stunning, yet the movements themselves are a study in simplicity. Underlying all is a sense of deep spirituality, creating a towering testament to the indomitability of the human spirit.

-- Karen Anne Webb

Fun and Games

Joan Woodbury's "Ready, Set!", Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company's energetic start to its performance of "American Showmen," opened Wednesday at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City with dancers running through the auditorium bearing blinking light sticks, a la torch runners. The company's six dancers were joined by 16 university and high school performers in a series of "Olympic events" ranging from bobsledding to spinning figure skating pairs. Nicholas Cavallaro's swirling lighting design added to the fun.

In contrast, Daniel Ezralow's world premiere commission of "Prelude de l'Olympiad" was a contemplative, exacting and sensual piece set to selections of Claude Debussy's "Preludes." Golden dancers slowly journeyed through weight shifts and plenty of difficult lifts to create classical frieze poses.

Stevan Novakovich's duet with an echoing Jaime Hall suggested the obsessive agony of Narcissus, while John Allen's combative solo suggested Zeus or Neptune in a fury -- later to be calmed by Liberty Valentine's sensuous Aphrodite (or was it Athena?).

Things concluded with an expanded "Let's Dance" by Doug Varone, featuring his choreographic flair for stretching dancers' bodies like bungee cords. Varone has filled "Let's Dance" with plenty of jazz standards, allowing for everything from a humorous duet for Novakovich and Brandin Scott Steffensen in the Clooney Sisters' rendition of "The Coffee Song" to a disturbing co-dependent duet by Allen and Hall to Billie Holliday's aching vocals of Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy."

Ai Fujii's sprightly energy bounded through the numbers "O, Lady Be Good" and "Hamp's Walking Boogie" while Allen's frantic chair solo set to David Rose's "Holiday for Strings" was the comic high point of the evening.

-- Scott C. Morgan

Stevan Novakovich, John Allen and Brandin Scott Steffensen hold aloft Jaime Hall, Ai Fujii and Liberty Valentine in Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company's "Prelude de l'Olympiad."

Danny La/The Salt Lake Tribune