José Limón’s Influence On Modern Dance

José Limón’s Influence On Modern Dance

There is no freedom without form.
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“Dance was not pretty, not ‘graceful’, nor composed of steps. It had to dig beneath the superficial, and find a powerful beauty, even if it had to be ‘ugly’ to do so”- José Limón

José Limón spent his entire life fighting for American dance, fighting for both his own traditions and creative spirits. He created movement that was based off of heroic survival, passion of identity, suffering, and faith. Due to his contributions in the past, he established modern dance as we see it today through his translation of history. His rhythms expanded the once “kingdom of women” to a world where male expression alone now meets men in relationship. His fundamentals were based off of gestures seen in his arms, legs, chests, hips, knees, and feet. His choreography reflected the understanding and appreciation for his music, powered by his father, and this was commonly viewed through his technique and pieces.

The main composition for any of Limón’s works was this idea of suspension, which can be defined as “the change of direction when the body, in that soaring effortless magical moment after moving away from the gravitational pull, is slowly being reclaimed by it” (Limón 40). To explain Limón’s purpose behind his style was to focus on actions unheard of or unthinkable. He was known for head swings, passive stretching, falling or suspension, letting go of weight, leg swings, and beats or measures consisting of metric or breathing. His infatuation became the human mind and freeing the body to soar in a framework of silence, living out phrases according to the breath of life in the moment.

Though he was passionate about music he did not always want instrumental notes in his dances, but rather muscular dynamics such as clapping, silence or the use of one’s own breath in emotive range. He explored movement through the body to locate the dancers’ voices, having the body symbol an orchestra. His characters represented instruments such as the viola, trumpet, guitar, drums, and symbols. Limón has a unique sense about him in that he zealous about movement, dance, Chopin, Bach, and Mich, but when it came to the typical ballet structure with the body’s anatomy or Laban’s ideas, he was not of any interest.

A large factor Limón takes into account is music. He always believed that dancers are musicians, and vice versa, musicians are dancers. According to José, in order to be an excellent dancer one must link the two components into a single ingredient. Stating how successful they are when utilized together, meaning one cannot identify the difference between the two, there should not be awareness of this distinct separation heard or seen. Composers quickly picked up on Limón’s experience with tempos and that they were able to work jointly and understand or accept the opinions of one another. Limón uses Simon Sadoff, his conductor, for most of his dancers and dances as an example he mentions of a musician turned a dancer.

The funny part is how when Limón first began to incorporate music into his choreography, some critics were not on board and marked the tunes, melodies, and step arrangements as “crude and ugly." What he integrated into his pieces delineated the contours of phrasing with the music, the formations and exploitation of space along with movement, which people were unfamiliar with so they viewed it as different and wrong. Deciding to ignore the detractors, Limón considered any approach to music in dance being artistic, and how incredible people truly are even when put down or “wounded.” He was a fighter, nonetheless, and always encouraged people to find the dance that was in them. His motto was that dance was a life force and there is power in dance. He trusted himself in discovering his process and stumbling upon new ways and road paths to take, even if that meant looking into his earlier periods- in which case he did.

José’s contemporaries were the seeds to modern art birth. This design was inspired by life’s challenges, utterly human, and shaped by form to put forth such pure and complex movements. Some of his most artistic life was due to his stirring heroes of World War I and World War II, men, English nurses, and visions of past assaults. He had experience in life, hearing gun shots at the age of five-years-old during breakfast one morning, scrutinizing the death of his mother, becoming an immigrant, and so forth, even crediting ancestors as dance pioneers who had noble carriage and supremacy within their attendance.

Limón’s major influence on his career took place when he went to a performance of Harald Kreutzberg, his actual father whom was not present at his birth. Here he witnessed dance as a vision of ineffable power. A man could, with dignity and towering majesty, dance. It was due to such a presentation accomplished by this man that Limón was given hope with the thought to centralize the strengths and flaws of men with themes of love, fealty, and betrayal as a substitute for Limón’s initial pursuance in painting. He had mental pictures of men dancing alongside women and introduced contact improve and releasing techniques. He suggested off balance routines that would glide an individual on the floor or off to another area in the space. Such thought process began in the dance studio of his foster parents, Doris Humphrey and Charles Wiedman, of which he owes his life to claiming it was their dance classes that brought Limón to life.

His concentrations were towards the dramas of life, and, though it is taught today, there was never a written down technique set. Limón felt that the idea of a rigid outline would limit the possibilities, when he was promoting simplicity, and clarity without extraneous movement, surplus energy, or unwanted tension. His goal was not to establish a structure, but instead endorse the feeling of fearlessness, impulsive attack, or spontaneous actions that would surprise the audience.

Past performances of him were noted as sending his body into the air by sheer will, oblivious as to where he would end up when he came back down to the ground. Limón never tried to look “pretty” when he danced so he believed that when one truly stopped focusing on this concept he or she would become beautiful, and portray traits that would “communicate volume” to a local spectator. He considered himself an outsider, though his choreography ended up piercing social links, political structures, psychological relationships, and a growth in not only men’s lives but American dance as a whole.

The José Limón Dance Company is 69 years old (1947 birth) and has demonstrated modern dance repertory, and works of classic modern. Born in Mexico, Limón’s personal career as a creative and performing artist was established in the United States and led him to be not only a phenomenal dancer, but a trademark in choreographing and networking. Because of the economy at this time this made for harder travel for companies with much drapery, and the government was not in favor of the American arts. However, Limón had a background in Hispanic which provided common ground with Latin Americans and commenced the company to be selected by the State Department to promote good will and present a positive image of American culture by going on tour.

José Limón was now declared the first artist to receive funds under the State Department’s newly formed International Exchange Program. With this investment of the UNESCO in 1954-a project to tour which was one of the major importance to our country’s international relations- his company was able to perform in various countries including: Australia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Singapore and became a United States representative. He constituted an ideal choice as an artist and diplomat during this era for he launched new connections and cultural exchanges. It was because of Limón’s performance that insidious and constant efforts to portray the United States as a heartless and materialistic community were ended. It was so impressive that is offset any negative feedback or comments. It was up until his death (due to cancer on December 2, 1972) that the company was at its peak.

Now it has taken years to balance the memory of his presence, being one of the founders of modern dance in this country. Limón left the 16 dancers in his company with no one else in charge. There was no clear provision made in his will to care for his dances, especially with having no actual dance school of his own. He built a barn years ago that was to later become a studio, but was not fully completed. It was understood how Limón left the company as he lived, fighting for the dance and creating. In his dances he often used narratives structures, based on literary or biblical themes, to explore the characters of his heroes and heroines and the motivations behind all their actions forming abstract linear configurations, and shifting the attention to all who were on stage. Jose Limón was able to counter the perception of the American culture and present a technique that would be continued for the rest of eternity.

Cover Image Credit: limon.org

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A Playlist From The iPod Of A Middle Schooler In 2007

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Something happened today that I never thought in a million years would happen. I opened up a drawer at my parents' house and I found my pink, 4th generation iPod Nano. I had not seen this thing since I graduated from the 8th grade, and the headphones have not left my ears since I pulled it out of that drawer. It's funny to me how music can take you back. You listen to a song and suddenly you're wearing a pair of gauchos, sitting on the bleachers in a gym somewhere, avoiding boys at all cost at your seventh grade dance. So if you were around in 2007 and feel like reminiscing, here is a playlist straight from the iPod of a middle schooler in 2007.

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7. "Fergalicious" — Fergie

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10. "Chain Hang Low" — Jibbs

11. "Smack That" — Akon ft. Eminem

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14. "Irreplaceable" — Beyonce

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19. "Beautiful Girls" — Sean Kingston

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Cover Image Credit: http://nd01.jxs.cz/368/634/c6501cc7f9_18850334_o2.jpg

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The Publishing of T.S. Eliot's Correspondence: What is Life's Poetry Without Irony?

Volume 8 of Eliot's letters has now been published by Faber & Faber, and the poet who preached the irrelevance of a work's author once again eludes self-limitation.

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T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.

Often said to be the chief representative of modernist poetry, he is also considered by many to be the most significant poet of the 20th century.

Author of "The Waste Land", "Four Quartets", and "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats", he is both endlessly enjoyed and endlessly debated.


T.S. Eliot, for the sake of his fans and for that of academics with a vested interest in his legacy, now has his life further displayed to the eyes of the world. The massive project of publishing his correspondence has reached its eighth volume, and two more years of his life (1936-1938) are now further open to scrutiny. The supreme irony here is that Eliot, who stipulated in his will that there never be a biography written of him, would not have thought very kindly of the idea of prying into his personal life in order to interpret his poetry.

In fact, he preached an entire theory of poetry opposed to such an idea.

In his 1919 essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent", he argues at length that, when judging the value of a work of poetry, the work's authorship is totally irrelevant. The reader should value the work in and of itself. Thus we arrive at a purer form of encountering art, one supposes; this was a solemn creed for the modernists. The reader of Joyce's "Ulysses" or Eliot's own "The Waste Land" either becomes comfortable with the paradox of not understanding as itself a form of understanding or rejects the work as something as far as possible from "Art" as it can possibly be. This is a form of experiencing art that places the experience at the forefront. Art is not meant to mean anything; rather, it is meant to be experienced, or, rather, the experience of it is its meaning. The text is what is important, and discussing the history behind it or the context of its creation is useless, weighing the reader down. Let the poet empty himself entirely of self, Eliot urges in his essay, and let the poetry be poetry.

Eliot was an imperfect man, but one flaw that he definitely lacked was stupidity. How could a man famous the world over seriously request that no biography be written of him; how could he stand so firmly and purely for an artistic posture as to propose that it be translated into a code of conduct? The answer, I suspect, is a beautiful one, and one just as complex as his best poetry.

When Eliot converted from (agnostic) Unitarianism in 1927 to the Church of England and set himself on the path of spending the rest of his life as a committed Anglo-Catholic, he completely scandalized his literary circle. Not only did such people as Virginia Woolf consider it offensive for someone to go in for organized religion, it seemed totally incomprehensible that someone like Eliot, who so eloquently demonstrated the beauty of artistic iconoclasm, would go in for what seemed to be the very essence of an aesthetically useless, dying, old world order. Eliot, however, never considered his conversion to be a break; rather, he simply thought of it as development. "Ash-Wednesday" is certainly not written in the same style as "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". That they have themes in common is undeniable.

The Unitarianism that Eliot inherited from his family was not at all concerned with the Incarnation of Christ; Anglo-Catholicism, however, was obsessed with it. There is no personality behind divinity in the former; in the latter, it is essential that the creator be accessible through the creation. The distance between the work and the author is emphasized in the former, while the proximity is stressed in the latter. There is nobody behind the poem in the theory articulated in "Tradition and the Individual Talent". In Anglo-Catholic theology, the world revolves around the presence of the Body behind the work.

Orthodox Christianity rejoices in paradox; thus, Christ's self-emptying (kenosis) in becoming Man is a complete unclothing from the state of divine exaltation, even as the state of divinity is simultaneously retained. If the author of a work is a god and the work is his creation, then the theory of poetry Eliot encourages us to hold is analogous to agnosticism or atheism. Yet Eliot believed in a type of Christianity as far from agnosticism as possible, refusing to ignore the presence of God and the saints. Eliot's play "Murder in the Cathedral" portrays martyred archbishop Thomas Becket as a man who empties himself of self, yet he is a man whose name is after death immortalized by those who venerate him, while the physical remains of his earthly existence become objects of devotion. Eliot preached anonymity, yet the world is hardly going to forget him any time soon. Eliot might have outwardly wished that his name be forgotten and his poetry remembered, but he may have inwardly wished that he be both forgotten and remembered at one and the same time, that his name remain forever caught up in the glorious paradox that is itself really the essence of poetry. We can, I venture, make good use of our opportunity to pry into Eliot's life, even while recognizing that he would have protested, even while recognizing that such prying is fully connected to a side of his art that is totally indispensable.

We can, in a word, be totally atheistic believers in his art, recognizing that only in such a way can we recognize the greatness of poetry capacious enough to go beyond itself even while remaining itself and nothing else.

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