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LIMBO

Page history last edited by Trenel Chanzo 8 years ago

This article appears in Wikipedia, but is frequently changed by 'competing' researchers.  In order to preserve its integrity, we include the article with elements added by Instituto Palmeiras as a back-up resource.  If you have any additional information or references, please share at institutopalmeiras@gmail.com.

 

The Limbo dance originated as an event that took place at wakes in Trinidad and Tobago, and was popularized by dance pioneer Julia Edwards (known as the First Lady of Limbo) and her company which appeared in several films, in particular, "Fire Down Below" (1957) and toured widely in the Caribbean, Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa in the 1960s and beyond. A film "Julia and Joyce" was released in 2010 by Trinidadian/American dance researcher/choreographer Sonja Dumas which features the evolution of the Limbo and the contribution of Julia Edwards to the explosion of its popularity.

 

Traditionally, limbo dance began at the lowest possible bar height and the bar was gradually raised, signifying a emergence from death into life. In its adaptation to the world of entertainment, troupes began reversing the traditionally order, and Julia Edwards added a number of features that are now considered standard, such as human 'bars', formed by the limbs of other dancers, and the use of fire in the performance of limbo. Limbo dancers generally move and respond to a number of specific Afro-Caribbean drum patterns. As Limbo gained popularity as a tourist activity and a form of entertainment, pop music emerged using Caribbean rhythms to respond to the emerging craze in the United States (one major example is the song "Limbo Rock" recorded by Chubby Checker), from which emerged the popular quote that is associated with limbo that says "How low can you go?". Limbo was also brought into the mainstream by Trinidadian Calypsonian, Brigo (Samuel Abrahams) with his popular soca song "Limbo Break".

Limbo is unofficially considered the national dance of Trinidad and Tobago, which refers to itself as the land of limbo, steelpan (steel drums) and calypso. After a preparatory dance, the dancer prepares and addresses the bar, lowering and leaning back their body while balancing on feet akimbo with knees extended backwards. The dancer is declared "out" and loses the contest if any part of the body touches the stick or pole that they are passing beneath, or if the hands touch the floor. When several dancers compete, they go under the stick in single-file; the stick is gradually lowered until only one dancer, who has not touched either the pole or the floor, remains.

As Limbo spread out of Trinidad and Tobago to the wider world and the big screen, in several other Caribbean islands, such as Barbados and Jamaica, limbo became a major part of the tourism package. Indeed, in Jamaica, the trendy limbo music of the 1950s was often based on a clave rhythm. It is also widely heard in Jamaican mento recorded in the 1950s, in songs such as "Limbo" by Lord Tickler and Calypsonians or "Limbo" by Denzil Laing & the Wrigglers, as well as many others songs not directly related to the limbo dance theme. Limbo is still practiced and presented by numerous dance troupes in the context of the Prime Minister's Best Village Competition and during the Carnival season in Trinidad and Tobago.

Limbo has become popular as a dance form. The popularity began on the island of Trinidad when American and British sailors took the form back to their home countries as a party dance. Limbo is a movement that is traditionally done at funerals and derives from the African legba or legua dance.[1] If the limboist makes it under the bar (usually a bar of fire) with ease, it means that the spirit has transitioned to the other side with ease. A professional limboist generally leans backward, lowering their body to the individual's greatest extent, balancing upon feet akimbo with knees extended backwards.

In recent years, limbo dancing has been conducted as a social "icebreaker" game for tourists at Caribbean and other tropical resorts. The dancer is declared "out" and loses the contest if any part of the body touches the stick or pole that they are passing beneath, or if the hands touch the floor. When several dancers compete, they go under the stick in single-file; the stick is gradually lowered until only one dancer, who has not touched either the pole or the floor, remains. There is a popular quote that is associated with limbo that says "How low can you go?" which spectators often repeat together whenever someone is playing the game. It is also a popular game at roller-skating rinks, with the dancers on roller skates. The winning dancer often receives a prize.

The name comes directly from the Trinidadian dialect of English; Merriam–Webster [1] lists the etymology as "English of Trinidad"; from English "limber".

 

History

The word 'limbo' is used to denote a form of dance that dates back to the 1950s. Limbo is a Trinidadian English derivative of 'limber'. Limber is a sixteenth century word used in the dialectical sense to refer to a cart shaft, alluding to its to and fro motion. "Consistent with certain African beliefs, the dance reflects the whole cycle of life".[2] "The dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered from chest level, and they emerge on the other side, as their heads clear the pole, as in the triumph of life over death".[2]

 

World Record

The world record for lowest limbo dance is held by Shemika Charles, an 18 year old woman from Trinidad who lived in New York. On 16 September 2010 she successfully danced under a bar only 8.5 inches (21.5 cm) above the ground. [3]

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