José Limón: An Unfinished Memoir

Edited by Lynn Garafola

Introduction by Deborah Jowitt
Foreword by Carla Maxwell
Afterword by Norton Owen

Limon portrait on book coverBoth as a dancer and a choreographer, José Limón electrified audiences from the 1930s to the 1960s. With his striking looks and charismatic presence, he was American modern dance’s first male star. Born in Culiacán, Mexico, in 1908, the eldest of twelve children, he came to the United States when he was seven. In 1928, after a year at UCLA as an art major, he left for New York. There he attended his first modern dance concert and discovered his destiny.

Limón spent the 1930s with the Humphrey-Weidman group; then, in the 1940s, after a stint in the army, he formed one of the outstanding modern dance companies of the postwar era. With Doris Humphrey as artistic adviser, his company flourished, and Limón became a master choreographer. His greatest works – The Moor’s Pavane, La Malinche, The Traitor, A Choreographic Offering, There Is a Time, Missa Brevis – extolled a humanism that endeared them to audiences the world over. Although Limón himself died in 1972, all these dances remain in the active repertory of the Limón Dance Company.

This memoir, left unfinished at the time of Limón’s death, stands on its own as a Joycean account of the childhood and coming of age of an unusually perceptive dance artist. Limón writes with eloquence of his Mexican childhood, an idyll that ended in the harsh realities of border-town America. And of the numerous figures he memorializes, from Martha Graham to José Covarrubias, none is more luminously evoked than Doris Humphrey, the "goddess," "nymph," and "caryatid" of his life. Sensitively edited by Lynn Garafola, this book includes a complete list of Limón’s works, richly informative notes, rare photographs, and a detailed bibliography.

"This valuable book brings a whole era of modern dance to life. Limón’s writing is colorful and detailed. Dances that have gone unperformed for decades and probably will never be revived are once again seen in the theater of Limón’s memory. He also writes frankly about such issues as his consciousness of being part of two cultures, his ambivalence toward his father, and the overpowering presence of his choreographic mentor, Doris Humphrey." – Jack Anderson

Title: José Limón: An Unfinished Memoir
Author: José Limón
Editor: Lynn Garafola
Pub date: 1998
7 x 10 in., 208 pp., 21 illus.
ISBN 0-8195-6374-9

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