This essay explores the juxtaposition of three texts: Shakespeare’s Othello, José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane (1949) and Doug Elkins’ Mo(or)town/Redux (2012). Limón’s piece, now considered a modern dance classic, reimagines Othello as a taut, twenty-minute formal dance set to the music of Henry Purcell, for Othello, Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia. Elkins’ piece responds to Limón’s by retaining the four-character format and some of the key movement motifs, but uses a postmodern aesthetic drawn from hip-hop and various other styles, and a Motown soundtrack. I argue that although these dance adaptations are derived from Othello, they are not derivative; they do not achieve meaning only in relation to Shakespeare’s play. Rather, they reveal that Othello is more of a process than a product: a text that, as Margaret Jane Kidnie suggests, “evolves over time in response to the needs and sensibilities of its users.” Yet Limón and Elkins adapt Shakespeare in diverse ways, particularly in their portrayals of race on the dance stage. Limón, a Mexican-American, created the role of Othello in The Moor’s Pavane and presented a striking physical contrast with Lucas Hoving, the Dutch-born dancer who created the role of Iago. Yet Limón attempted to efface a racially-inflected reading of the piece, claiming that it presented “the tragedy of Everyman.” Elkins, by contrast, insists on the visibility of racial issues within Mo(or)town/Redux, through the history of Motown music, through his uses of hip-hop and breaking, and through “color-sighted” casting practices.


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pp. 601-626
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