Staying Put

April 13, 2016

Kristen Foote still relishes the Limón repertory after 15 years.

Foote in Limón’s The Winged. Photo by Beatriz Schiller, Courtesy Audrey Ross Publicity.

When Kristen Foote first ventured into José Limón territory as a teenager, she struggled. “I hadn’t really used my torso that much and the thought of being off-balance terrified me,” she explains. “I had a hard time surrendering to the feeling, but when it did click, it was empowering and exhilarating. I was kind of addicted.” After just celebrating her 15th season with the Limón Dance Company, this reflection seems like the ultimate understatement.

In today’s modern
dance world, dancers often move from company to company. But having spent her entire career in one place, Foote has found that there is a huge reward in coming back for more of the same repertoire. Even though the steps haven’t changed, she relishes the opportunity to revisit old works with the perspective of new directors and to explore her changing self.

Originally from Toronto, Foote was a competitive jazz, tap and ballet dancer. Then one summer at the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre, where Limón dancers were invited to teach summer intensives, longtime Limón dancer Pamela Jones Malave showed her class videos of the company’s repertory. “I was completely moved by it,” says Foote. After working with Malave, Foote was invited to do a Limón summer intensive at Connecticut College, which led to an offer to join the company. Foote moved to New York City to start her career at age 19.

“I was able to let the wild beast inside me free,” she says. Along with the challenge of versatility the Limón repertoire offered, she was attracted to the other works commissioned, such as Doug Varone’s
Possession Quartet

Fifteen years later, she appreciates the ability to return to roles as a more mature woman. “When I first joined, we danced
There is a Time
for two years. I was still coming into who I was as a woman and I don’t think I had the maturity to allow my life experience to infiltrate my dancing,” reflects Foote. “Coming back to the roles, new things come to light. I have worked with three different directors on Time, and each new perspective allows me to dig deeper, which keeps drawing me in. Each time, something new clicks into place and I feel like I am coming back as a new person.” She has found that she’s better able to channel her feelings and any day-to-day frustrations, using her real-life experiences to find more-poignant expression. “I didn’t know I had that fire in me, and ‘A Time for Hate’ now really gives me the space to be another creature, to release a fury I had tried to suppress.”

As she continues to develop as a performer, Foote is happy to report there are still some Limón dances she hasn’t even touched yet. She looks forward to one day dancing her favorite duet,
The Exiles
, loosely based on Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Foote has been fortunate that during Limón layoff weeks, she has also been able to explore other opportunities, dancing in Mark Morris’
Hard Nut
and as a Rockette in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Living in New York City has allowed her to dance with many different artists, including choreographer John Heginbotham. For the Joyce Theater’s José Limón International Dance Festival last fall, Foote was able to coach young dancers from her alma mater
when she staged The Winged and set Mazurkas on students from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Foote also initiated a solo project last year, a concert that included choreography by Lar Lubovitch, Heginbotham, Isadora Duncan, Anna Sokolow and, of course, Limón. Now she’s looking forward to engagements at Danspace Project and the American Dance Festival this summer. “If ever I felt stifled, I would have definitely moved on, but I feel like I’ve been supported, guided and given opportunities,” says Foote. “There is still so much room and space to grow.” n