JOSE LIMON by José Limón


An Unfinished Memoir
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A beautifully written memoir of a modern dance pioneer whose legacy includes his masterpiece retelling of Othello, The Moore’s Pavane, and the company that bears his name. Sadly, Lim¢n died just a few months short of his 65th birthday, before finishing this account of his career. Lim¢n embodied elegant power. Accordingly, he claims Isadora Duncan and German Harald Kreutzberg as his aesthetic parents, and Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, with whom he studied for ten years, as his “foster parents.” Yet, even given Humphrey’s formalism and Duncan’s wholehearted spirituality, these influences alone do not explain the ubiquitous battle of emotion against severity in Lim¢n’s dances such as La Malinche and There is a Time. The origins of this tension may be partially explained by the author’s revelations about his childhood. As a young boy during the Mexican civil war, Lim¢n witnessed the deaths of his cousins, uncles, and siblings. When his family moved to California, Lim¢n was again caught in crossfire, this time between rigid American teenage culture and the barrier of his imperfect English. Lim¢n swore one day to express himself better than the natives. He moved from California to New York in order to paint, but a dance performance changed his mind. Thereafter, he channeled all the passion, the depth of feeling, and the discipline that his harsh childhood had kindled into modern dance. He created 103 dances, ranging in spirit from Bacchanale to Luther. Many have become standards in dance company repertories throughout the world. Editor Garafola (Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, not reviewed) comments that Lim¢n revised little; the story simply poured out of him. Yet every word bears unexpected weight and torque, just like every step he ever set on stage. He is a master storyteller, with language as with his body. (30 photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8195-6374-9
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999