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José Limón
An Unfinished Memoir
José Limón

2001 • 245 pp. 21 illus. 7 x 10"
Dance / Biography

$26.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6505-1

“If ever a dancer told us eloquently what his art is all about, it is José Limón in this autobiography. Unfinished at the time of his death in 1972 but... [continued in Reviews below]”—Francis Mason, The New York Times Book Review

A captivating illustrated autobiography of the early years of a major American choreographer.

Both as a dancer and a choreographer, José Limón electrified audiences from the1930s 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. Here, he attended his first modern dance concert and discovered his destiny.

He spent the 1930s with the Humphrey-Weidman group. Then, in the 1940s, after a stint in the army, and with Doris Humphrey as artistic advisor, he formed one of the outstanding modern dance companies of the postwar era. 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 died in 1972, all these dances remain in the Limón Dance Company's active repertory.

This memoir was commissioned by Wesleyan University Press in the late 1960s. Left unfinished at the time of Limón's death, it stands on its own as a Joycean account of the coming of age of an unusually perceptive dance artist. Limón writes with eloquence of his Mexican childhood. 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, the book includes a complete list of Limón's works, richly informative notes, rare photographs, and a detailed bibliography. This is the single most important book on Limón and a riveting memoir of modern dance during its golden age

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Reviews / Endorsements

“If ever a dancer told us eloquently what his art is all about, it is José Limón in this autobiography. Unfinished at the time of his death in 1972 but preserved at the dance collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the memoir finally sees the light of day. Here, Limón sets the scene for his heroic career on stage and for the dances he created.”—Francis Mason, The New York Times Book Review

“Limón grew up with the century, was buffeted by its struggles, felt his universe and its traumas in a visceral way, and transformed his passions into enduring dances. [An Unfinished Memoir] is much more than a reference work; it’s a rare, intensely personal glimpse of an artist and his time.”—Elizabeth Zimmer, Village Voice

“A beautifully written memoir of a modern dance pioneer. 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.”—Kirkus Reviews

"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 theatre 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, author of Art Without Boundaries

LYNN GARAFOLA is author of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1989), editor of several books, including Rethinking the Sylph: New Perspectives on the Romantic Ballet (SDHS/Wesleyan, 1998), and co-editor with Eric Foner of Dance for a City: Fifty Years of the New York City Ballet (1999).

Wed, 17 Oct 2018 11:32:03 -0500