José Limón papers

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Collection Data

The José Limón Papers mainly document the personal life of the Limóns during the 1930s and 1940s and the professional life of the Limóns from the 1940s until 1972. The Pauline Lawrence Limón Collection [(S) *MGZMD 15] is intrinsically linked with the José Limón Papers, and, as a whole, either collection can only be used effectively in conjunction with the other. In addition, the Doris Humphrey Collection [(S) *MGZMC-Res. 3] includes letters written by José Limón and by Pauline Lawrence, as well as other material pertaining to them.
Limón, José (Creator)
Bruhn, Erik, 1928-1986 (Correspondent)
De Mille, Agnes (Correspondent)
Grahm, Martha (Correspondent)
Humphrey, Doris, 1895-1958 (Correspondent)
King, Eleanor, 1906-1991 (Correspondent)
Koner, Pauline (Correspondent)
Lawrence, Pauline (Contributor)
Mansfield, Portia (Correspondent)
Nagrin, Daniel (Correspondent)
O'Donnell, May (Correspondent)
Page, Ruth, 1899-1991 (Correspondent)
Riggs, Lynn, 1899-1954 (Correspondent)
Robinson, Helen Mary (Correspondent)
Shawn, Ted, 1891-1972 (Correspondent)
St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968 (Correspondent)
Tetley, Glen (Correspondent)
Weidman, Charles (Correspondent)
Wigman, Mary, 1886-1973 (Correspondent)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1927 - 1972 (Approximate)
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZMD 24
Manuscripts -- Collections
National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Grant, 1990
José Limón Dance Company
Biographical/historical: On January 12, 1908, José Arcadia Limón was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. His father, Florencio Limón, was a musician, conductor, and the director of the State Academy of Music. Limón's mother, Francisca Traslaviña, bore eleven children (four of whom died in infancy) of whom José was the eldest. The toil of so many pregnancies resulted in her death at the age of 34. After wandering from one northern city to another, Limón's father finally moved the family to the United States to escape the terror and violence of the revolution in Mexico. José was seven when he and his family left Mexico for Tucson, Arizona. Eventually, the Limóns settled in Los Angeles. Graduating in 1926, Limón was an excellent student in high school and intended to pursue a career as a painter/artist. He enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles and took art classes at a private studio. He soon abandoned his studies, however, to journey to New York. Three friends, Don Forbes, Perkins Harnly, and Fernando Felix, who had introduced Limón to contemporary and avant-garde art in Los Angeles, had moved to New York and prompted Limón to do the same. While in New York, Limón's passion for a career in art dissipated, and a chance visit to a dance concert by Harald Kreutzberg and Yvonne Georgi inspired Limón to undertake a career in dance. Don Forbes and Perkins Harnly recommended that José study with Charles Weidman (whom they knew from their youth in Lincoln, Nebraska) at the Humphrey-Weidman Studio. From 1928 to 1940 Limón was a pupil and dancer with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. In addition, he performed in Broadway shows, such as Norman Bel-Geddes' production of Lysistrataby Aristophanes, J. P. Envoy's musical revue Americana,and Irving Berlin's As Thousands Cheer. In 1940 Limón left the Humphrey-Weidman Company to embark on a solo career as dancer and choreographer. During the 1930s Limón had choreographed a half dozen pieces and had taught dance at Bennington College, Temple University, the University of Pittsburgh, Colorade State College of Education, the University of California at Berkeley, and Mills College. On the west coast in 1940-41, he continued his teaching and performed many concert engagements with May O'Donnell as his partner. On October 4, 1941, José Limón and Pauline Lawrence were married in San Francisco. Limón had met Pauline thirteen years before, when he first attended classes at the Humphrey-Weidman Studio. Pauline was the receptionist there, as well as accompanist, business manager, and costume designer. After his marriage Limón returned to New York as guest artist of the season at the Studio Theatre, where he performed leading roles in many works directed by Doris Humphrey. He also appeared on Broadway in the leading dance role of Rosalinda. In March 1943 Limón was inducted into the army, although he did not become a U.S. citizen until 1947. At first, Limón served as a truck driver in the quartermaster corps but then received a transfer to the Special Services Division. He directed and performed in dances, pageants, and shows. During his off-hours, he rehearsed for concerts that he performed with Dorothy Bird and Beatrice Seckler on his furlough. When he was finally discharged, Limón organized a new company with Doris Humphrey as choreographer and artistic director. José Limón and Company made annual tours of the United States during its first years. Limón's first major choreographic triumph was “The Moor's Pavane” in 1949, for which he won the Dance Magazine Award in 1950. That same year Limón and his company performed in Paris and in Mexico, at the invitation of Miguel Covarrubias, then Director of the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes. Limón returned to Mexico City twice in 1951. In 1954 José Limón and Company became the first dance company sent abroad on a cultural mission by the United States State Department. Under the auspices of the American National Theatre and Academy and the State Department, Limón first made a tour of South America, then a tour of Europe in 1957, a tour of South and Central America in 1960, and a tour of the Far East and Australia in 1963. The José Limón Dance Company also toured the Soviet Union in 1973, just after Limón's death. Since 1948 the Limóns spent every summer in residence at the Connecticut College School of Dance, and each year Limón appeared at the American Dance Festival held there. From 1954 until his death, Limón was a member of the dance faculty at the Juilliard School of Music. José Limón and Company opened the first dance performance at the New York Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Central Park on September 4, 1962. While artistic director of the American Dance Theatre, Limón gave the first dance performance ever at Lincoln Center in 1963. Honors that Limón received include a second Dance Magazine Award in 1957, the Capezio Dance Award in 1964, and four honorary doctorates from Wesleyan University, Colby College, the University of North Carolina, and Oberlin College. José Limón was a consistently productive choreographer and an active dancer until 1969. His first choreographic efforts began in 1931 with Eleanor King, and from 1949 to 1972 he choreographed at least one new piece each year. He received commissions for choreographic works from the American Dance Festival, the Empire State Festival, the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes of Mexico, and the Federal Arts Council in the United States. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the formation of a modern dance company able to survive the death or retirement of its founder. His was the first to remain as a performing unit after his death on December 2, 1972.
Content: The José Limón Papers mainly document the personal life of the Limóns during the 1930s and 1940s and the professional life of the Limóns from the 1940s until 1972. The Pauline Lawrence Limón Collection [(S) *MGZMD 15] is intrinsically linked with the José Limón Papers, and, as a whole, either collection can only be used effectively in conjunction with the other. In addition, the Doris Humphrey Collection [(S) *MGZMC-Res. 3] includes letters written by José Limón and by Pauline Lawrence, as well as other material pertaining to them.|||Personal letters in the José Limón Papers can be found from 1927 through 1972, but their length and the quantity of letters from certain correspondents decrease, for the most part, after the 1940s. A few correspondence series have been separated from the general yearly correspondence lists. These include all letters between José and Pauline Limón and letters written to Pauline Lawrence from Doris Humphrey, Humphrey Fry, Paul Love, Helen Mary Robinson, and Charles Humphrey Woodford. The majority of personal correspondence for José or Pauline Limón has been arranged by year, and each correspondent has been listed alphabetically by name.|||The professional correspondence, which spans forty years (1933 to 1972), has been sorted entirely by date with no index to or listing or correspondents. This series includes bills, contracts, and copies of letters sent by the Limóns, in addition to letters sent to them. Miscellaneous correspondence series have been identified in the “Series Description” and include letters from the Limóns' foster child, items related to property jointly owned by Charles Weidman and José Limón in the 1930s, and invitations to the White House.|||The remaining material in the manuscript collection breaks down into writings, professional material, legal documents and memorabilia, and financial records. Writings in the José Limón Papers include a hand-written, unpublished autobiography that chronicles Limón's life through 1942. Addresses, essays, and lectures written by Limón, by Doris Humphrey, and by others can also be found. In “Miscellaneous,” section VIII of the “Series Description,” are the daily calendars and diaries of the Limóns. They are particularly useful not only for dating events, but because José Limón often recorded in them his reactions to daily experiences—such as a performance by Charles Weidman or the difficulties of managing some of the company members or the ordeal of surgery for removal of cancerous tissue and organs. Frequently these entries are written in Spanish.|||Professional material in the José Limón Papers (other than the correspondence) consists of choreographic and production notes for works by José Limón and by Doris Humphrey, baggage inventories, costuming notes, press articles, program drafts, and tour/performance schedules. Most of this material pertains to José Limón and Company; there is only slight representation of the Humphrey-Weidman Company and José Limón's solo efforts before World War II.|||Legal documents and memorabilia include José Limón's high school diploma and yearbook, his four diplomas for honorary Ph.D.'s, awards, the Limóns' marriage license, passports, and visas. The last section of the collection contains financial records from 1948 to 1969. The material consists of cancelled checks, bank statements, paycheck stubs, and hotel bills. Any apparent gaps or missing items can undoubtedly be found in the financial sections of the Pauline Lawrence Limón Collection.|||Certain non-manuscript materials received with the original gift have been removed from the José Limón Papers. All newspaper and magazine articles, programs, posters, photographs, three-dimensional objects, and sheet music have been dispersed throughout the Dance Collection or given to the Music Division. A separation list, located at the end of the folder list, indicates the nature and disposition of these items.|||The following abbreviations are used throughout the folder list: JL - José Limón PLL - Pauline Lawrence Limón Misc - Miscellaneous n.d.- no date|||When the correspondence series are noted, the name of the individual or individuals is listed first, followed by a slash (/). Following the slash is the name of the individual or individuals to whom the letters are written.|||Example: PLL/JL indicates letters written by Pauline Lawrence Limón to José Limón.
Content: Series include personal and professional correspondence; Limón autobiography, as well as other writings by him; choreographic and production notes; dance chronologies; professional material; legal documents and memorabilia; and financial records (boxes 667-683)
Content: Correspondents include Erik Bruhn, Agnes De Mille, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Eleanor King, Pauline Koner, Portia Mansfield, Daniel Nagrin, May O'Donnell, Ruth Page, Lynn Riggs, Helen Mary Robinson, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, Glen Tetley, Charles Weidman, and Mary Wigman
Additional physical form: *ZBD-510 (Microfilm)
Physical Description
Extent: 664 folders and 21 boxes
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12178525
MSS Unit ID: 19669
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 5f23ddc0-aa31-0139-cf1b-0242ac110003
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