Jose Arcadia Limon

Jose Arcadia Limon

(1908-1972)

One of Americas premiere modern dancers and choreographers, Jose Arcadia Limon origi¬ nally thought he wanted to become a painter.He was born in Culiaca, Sinaloa, Mexico. His father was the director of the State Music Academy and traveled the country with the national military band.

During the Mexican Revolution, the family moved to the border town of Nogales. Later, they settled in Tucson, Arizona.The family relocated to Los Angeles, where Limon attended high school. As a student, he was active in the arts and dreamed of becom¬ ing an artist.

After high school, he enrolled at the University of California, but he dropped out after his mother died. He went to work in a factory to help support his large family.Limon developed a circle of artist friends, and in 1928, he followed them to New York City. Having saved up twenty-seven dollars, he hitchhiked across the country for ten days to get there.

He enrolled in art school, but after six months, he realized that he did not want to become a painter after all.The following year, Limon attended a performance by a modern dancer from Germany at the Knickerbocker Theater.The performance was trans¬ forming—Limon realized that this kind of dancing was what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

He began to study modern dance with the mas¬ ters, and in three years, he was performing on Broadway.In 1932, he made his first appearance in the Humphrey- Weidman Company produc¬ tion of the play Americana. While he was performing with Humphrey-Weidman, Limon met a young receptionist named Pauline, who would later become his wife and business manager of thirty years.

During the 1930s, Limon also taught modern dance at Bennington College in Vermont, and he began composing his own dance productions. In 1937, he choreographed his first group dance, Danza de la Muerte (Dance of Death).Limon served in the U.S. Army for three years during World War II. After he finished his military service in 1945, he formed a small dance company.

In 1949, he produced his own original work, The Moor’s Pavane, based on Shakespeare’s play Othello. It is considered one of his greatest productions. His work was unique in its expression of his personal vision, critique of social injustices, and incorporation of Mexican themes.

Limon taught modern dance at universities throughout the United States, and he traveled around the globe, performing and teaching in Europe, Mexico, and South America. He con¬ tinued to dance and choreograph until his death. Some of his last productions were per¬ formed only a month before he died.