Introduction

I want to dig beneath empty formalisms, displays of technical virtuosity and the slick surface; to probe the human entity for the powerful, often crude beauty of gesture that speaks of man’s humanity

– José Limón [1]

Teachers of Limón technique will often talk about its inherent humanity. The movement principles of a Limón class emphasise the physical acknowledgment of gravity and herein lies the ideology of the technique: fraility/humility (submitting to gravity–falling) and indomitability (striving to overcome gravity–rising). The brief for our Palatine funded project here at Roehampton Dance was to flesh out the learning potential of a Limón technique class and to explore issues of movement assimilation, embodiment and how we experience and inherit movement from a technique and its teachers.

In order to examine this further, after the first day of the programme we invited four of the participants — Kate McMonagle, Sameena Mitta, Edel Quin and Evelyn Tuul—to articulate their experiences of dancing and teaching Limón technique with us. We sensed that the range of experience of these four dancers, their curiosity in class and their willingness to embrace and articulate their experiences would create rich material for us to explore. The dancers were interviewed and recorded by freelance writer and editor Elizabeth Boyce, who gently drew out the participants’ ideas and thoughts and then transcribed the interviews.

Workshop leaders Alan Danielson and Geraldine Cardiel were also interviewed over the two weeks of the summer school to flesh out their ideas about dancing and teaching and to discuss the heritage of Limón technique, its current practice and its future potential.

The project set out to examine the learning potential of the Limón dance technique class, to propose strategies to intensify the experiences which are possible during a class, and to find ways to bring these experiences into the foreground of teaching. In contemporary Limón classes, the issues of learning and teaching seem to be less concerned with the roles of those involved (who is doing what to whom?) and to focus more on the questions and concepts which arise out of seeing how movement works, using points of departure such as: breath, weight, fall and recovery, movement initiation, suspension and movement orchestration.

Although dance is traditionally communicated through face-to-face contact in a technique class, this research asks:

  1. What is the potential of this embodied contact between dance artists and how is it articulated?
  2. What are the means by which movement is taught and re-embodied and what is communicated between dancers/learners and teachers?

The project encouraged participants to reflect on what they said, what they observed and how they danced during the course of a Limón technique class and to share these ideas with us during the summer Limón programme.

There are two parts of this: it’s teaching and it’s Limón. So we have some experienced teachers and some novice teachers. We have some experienced Limón people and some novice Limón people, so there’s actually many different categories. There are experienced teachers that are experienced in Limón, experienced teachers that aren’t, novice teachers that are experienced in Limón, novice teachers that aren’t …

There are many different categories. So they have a different approach, slightly, and their experience gives them a different approach.

— Alan Danielson (interview, 19/7/11)

All dance techniques or styles deal with weight, with space, with opposition, with succession. They all – we all – do. They’re part of movement. The physics is a part of daily life. So the interesting part is how can we translate that into this style?

 — Geraldine Cardiel (interview, 28/7/11)

The teachers’ programme that Alan has been delivering for the past four years emphasises the continued relevance of Limón technique as a contemporary way of moving –  “I’m teaching this as a progression into the future” (interview 28/7/11). In revealing the technique as a system of accessible themes and ideas, Alan enables dancers to discover how their bodies work in relation to fundamental movement principles, rather than coming to know the technique by mimicking a set movement vocabulary. Alan is consistent in his view that the technique has longevity because it is defined by its humanity, “We will always be affected by gravity, our lives will always be affected by time” [2].

The summer programme at Roehampton was Alan’s sixth:

Every time I do a teachers’ workshop, they teach me something about it. They teach me another  way of looking at it … This is the first time that it’s actually gone the way I dreamed … it’s Limón today.

 — Alan Danielson (interview, 28/7/11)

Suggested citation for this page:
Stanton, Erica, Simon Ellis, Gemma Donohue & Lil Boyce (2012). ‘Limón Project: Introduction.’ Retrieved <insert date>, from http://roehamptondance.com/limonproject/introduction

References

[1] Limón, José (1965) ‘The Modern Dance as an Unpopular Art’. In Daniel Lewis (1984) The Illustrated Dance Technique Of José Limón, New York: Harper and Row, p.153

[2] Danielson, Alan (2010). ‘Finding Your own Voice’. In Ingo, D. & Lampert, F. (eds) Dance Techniques 2010 – Tanzplan Germany. Liepzig: Henschel Verlag, p.33