Genre Buzz: Limón Technique


Limón performing Mexican Suite in 1944. Photograph by Barbara Morgan.

José Limón was a great admirer of Doris Humphrey and his technique clearly reflects her teaching. Like Humphrey, his main goal was to express his personal relationship with the outside world through his movements in an organic manner. His technique was deeply influenced by Humphrey’s ideas, for example, the “quality of body’s weight”, which was represented with the fall and rebound. Also he was influenced by her “vocabulary of suspension and succession”.
Limón’s technique is not codified, because he believed that a structured technique would limit creativity which was vital for his approach. His technique helped his students to find the unique personal qualities of their own movement. He was interested in expression through movement rather than in beautiful movement for its own sake. He used to say to his students “when you stop trying to be pretty … you will be beautiful”. He emphasized the exploration of movement in its natural form and in the expression of pure humanity. He motivated his students always to “strive for simplicity and clarity without extraneous movement, superfluous energy or unwanted tension that would interfere with the original intent.” His dance represented a pure expression of emotion and passion, it was energetic, and it traveled and interacted through space.

He considered that the body was an instrument of communication and expression that could “speak”. In his view, “The modern idiom has extended a range of expressive movement and communicative gesture tremendously. The modern dancer strives for a complete use of body as his instrument”.[6] In his technique, “He used isolated parts of the body to ‘speak’ with individual qualities and referred to this idea as ‘voices of the body’.” For example, he used the movement of the shoulder in different directions that initiated simultaneously the movement of the arms, torso, or legs. For him this represented a dialect, where the movement of one part of the body could have “a voice with a motivation behind it”. He compared the body to an orchestra, where one part of the body could represent one instrument and another part of the body could represent a different instrument independently, allowing multiple lines of movement to harmonize through different parts of the body. The use of the arms were very important to him, providing curved shapes that interact with space through the effort shapes. He also considered that breathing was indispensable because it allowed movement to flow continuously and to start from the center of the body. In his technique, he paid great attention to the movements of the chest. He considered that the chest was a powerful part of the body that could portray emotion. He experimented different movements of the chest to explore different emotional possibilities. Most of the time, he used contraction with the torso and he emphasized “inward and outward rotations of the knee.”
The Limón technique is based upon the movement style and philosophy of theater developed by modern dance pioneers, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. In the early 1930s, both Weidman and Humphrey developed a dance vocabulary that worked in opposition to the strict rules of classical ballet. Their intention was twofold: to demonstrate human emotions in a less stylized manner than ballet; and to incorporate in their work the natural movement patterns of the body and its relation to gravity. Limón further developed their ideas for his own work and technique.
The Limón technique is divided among various physical extremes: fall and recovery, rebound, weight, suspension, succession and isolation. These ideas can be illustrated in the way a dancer uses the floor as a place from which to rise, return to and then rise from again. The way a dancer explores the range of movement between the one extreme of freedom from gravity and the other of falling into it; for example, the moment of suspension just as the body is at the top of a leap, and the moment the body had fallen completely back to the earth. There are many words and ideas that are immediately associated with the Limón technique, i.e. its humanism, its use of breath, musicality, lyricism and its dramatic qualities; however, the overwhelming consensus is that through the movement is always demonstrated some physical expression of the human spirit.
Article Source: Wikipedia (English version)