Program Archives
Limon: A Life Beyond Words
Producer: Ann Vachon
Genre: Documentary
Program Length: 1 Episode/60 Minutes
Broadcast Date: April 2, 2005

Revolutionary modern dancer and choreographer Jóse Limón was described by the New York Times as “the greatest male dancer of his own or any other time.” Limón: A Life Beyond Words examines the life and work of this man whose life forever changed the face of modern dance. The inspiration to make this film comes from Limón’s own statement: “All choreography is autobiographical, whether one intends it or not.”

It looks at his major works in the context of the times in which he lived and his own life. Limón is portrayed as a man who dealt with his bi-cultural conflicts through his art, in his case choreography. As a choreographer he was unafraid of major issues – religion, colonialism, love, jealousy, betrayal and death – themes which are as relevant to audiences today as when Limón first grappled with them.

Born in Mexico in 1908, Limón migrated as a child to the United States, where he eventually became a renowned dancer and choreographer, and was sent around the world by the U.S. State Department as a ‘cultural ambassador.’ The company he founded in 1947 continues to perform nationally and internationally twenty-eight years after his death, and his heroic and passionate dances continue to appeal to contemporary audiences.

Limón’s life story is unveiled through his unfinished autobiography in which Limón wrote of his childhood in Mexico, his family’s flight north during the Mexican Revolution, his struggles with English, and the inevitable discovery of his true language, that of the expressive human body. The film also combines interviews with family members and colleagues, archival photographs, and archival and contemporary performances. Excerpts from several CBC productions include “The Moor’s Pavane,” “The Traitor,” and “Emperor Jones,” all beautifully filmed in the fifties.

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