Limon/Humphrey Technique: Breathings

RDT dancer Lauren Curley introduces Limon/Humphrey Technique in this new series! First stop, Breathings.

Limon/Humphrey Key Elements and Terminology

  • Gravity and “the arc between two deaths”: Jose Limon and his mentor Doris Humphrey believed that life was essentially the sum of “the arc between two deaths”, or the idea that the body started small, grew throughout life, and returned to that same place of smallness. Every movement in this technique is determined by the body’s relationship to gravity. Are you falling in to gravity and sinking? Or are you resisting gravity and rising? Any half toe work in this technique is the result of the body rising so high up into lightness that the heels have no choice but to lift up. Same goes for plie, the muscles don’t do the work, gravity does.
    • Rise
    • Fall
  • Rebound: Often in the Humphrey / Limon technique the body will fall down in to gravity and rebound out of heaviness into lightness. Rather than controlling your fall, you simply “let go” of muscular engagement and let gravity do the work for you. (HINT: your core will always be engaged, even as you release engagement in your limbs).
  • Suspension: Humphrey and Limon believed that the most stimulating movement occurs in the point of suspension after the body rebounds out of gravity. The arrival to a suspension will come from momentum (your fall and rebound) rather than “locking” or “holding” the position. Pendular movement (swinging of the arms or torso) is a great way to visualize the point of suspension.
  • Breath and Humanity: The most important thing about Humphrey/Limon Is that every step and every gesture has a meaning. Movement comes from breath, as does life. The arms are always a reflection of the torso and all life and movement emanates from the pelvis. Arm positions are often referred to as “greeting” gestures and have a majestic quality to them, full of life and engagement throughout the entire body.
  • Counterpoint: Limon was very interested in the ways music and movement could counter and support one another. It is common for phrases to be taught in one mode of counting (say 8’s) and the music to be in an entirely different time signature (6’s). It’s a fun brain teaser!

Music: Because Humphrey / Limon is not a codified technique, you can technically use any music you like for class as long as the time signatures fit! I once again used Michael Wall’s soundFORballet CD for these combinations.

Fun fact: Jose Limon was a lefty and always preferred to do the left side before the right.

Breathings

Barre – Pliés – 3/4, 88 bars, 90BPM

Begin with your feet in first position, sternum softened and arms hanging by your side. Inhale rise 1-2 exhale forward curve 3-4, inhale again to rise this time incorporating your arms 5-6, exhale into your forward curve and add plie 7-8. Inhale rise allowing your arms to reach up 1-3 fall into forward fold with bent elbows 4, rebound and let the arms balloon 5, drop catch 6, suspend releasing your left leg and arms and sternum 7 open to second position on 8. Repeat in full in second position, first position, and second position again (releasing your right leg instead).


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Lauren began her training in Lowell, Massachusetts at Walker’s Dance. She was a scholarship recipient at the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School, graduating Summa Cum Laude with her BFA in Dance Performance. In her time at Hartt, Lauren furthered her training at the Jose Limon Dance Foundation, Martha Graham School, Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance, and Henny Jurrien Stichting (NL). Upon graduating she was offered a contract with Repertory Dance Theatre, where she has performed works by world-renowned choreographers such as Jose Limon, Elisa Monte, Donald McKayle, Danielle Agami, and Zvi Gotheiner. Lauren is a faculty member at Creative Arts Academy and teaches master classes at studios and University programs throughout the country. She has been a member of the company since 2014.