Thursday, March 1, 2012

Focus On Julia Edwards & The Traditional Limbo Dance

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post focuses on dancer Julia Edwards who is recognized as Trinidad and Tobago's First Lady of Limbo.


Julia [Edwards] describes the Limbo as Trinidad and Tobago's only true national dance, originally performed at wakes. the limbo was done for nine nights, where some mourners said prayers and others danced the limbo. On the first night, the bar would be at its lowest and would be gradually raised each successive night. This symbolized the elevation of the soul of the dearly departed from its lowest levels on earth to the highest in heaven. When the bar was at it's highest, it was declared victory night, signifying life's triumph over death. On that victory night, the bongo was danced.*

As a purely artistic endeavour, this did not sustain rapt attention because the climax came at the beginning, not at the end. Julia turned the dance on its head by using sticks to prop up the bar and the beginning at the highest point, while alluringly working her way down. Of course the costuming had to be more attractive than the mournful black and white, and consequently Helen Humphrey was brought in to do costuming that was more vibrant, and which is today being associated with the dance all over the world. Holly Betaudier, who was the first person to encourage her to dance professionally, came into the troupe to bring his tremendous organizational skills, and they introduced the signature song "I want somebody to Limbo like me". Julia further experimented, first introducing the flaming limbo and later the human limbo.

These Julia took to every corner of the globe, from Dakar to London, Japan to India and from North and South America to Europe. Julia and her troupe not only gave command performances to appreciative audiences, but in its wake brought HONOR and glory to the country's Dance by stamping Trinidad and Tobago as the "Land of Limbo"...

[Italics given to highlight that passage]


*It's important to emphasize that, according to this article, the limbo bar started at its lowest level and was raised higher and higher.

Click "The Cultural Meanings Of The Limbo Dance" for theories about the cultural meaning of the limbo, and for other folkloric information pertaining to that dance.


Unfortunately, I've not found any videos of Julia Edwards. However, I've selected two videos of the limbo which showcase the agility of its performers, and one video of the limbo done just for fun.

Video #1: Princess Shemika Limbo Interview

Uploaded by Tropicalxplosion on Nov 28, 2009


This interview features Shemika Charles, born in Trinidad and raised in Buffalo, New York. Note that the narrator for this video mentioned that the limbo was traditionally only danced by men. Female physiques create more challenges to getting under very low limbo bars.

Video #2: Emperor Duke Limbo's beer bottles!!

Uploaded by stumpy101017 on Jun 27, 2010 "Emperor Duke limbo's 2 Kalik bottles (Bahamian beer) off the ground. The bottles are only 8 INCHES off the ground!...

Video #3: Jessica's Birthday Limbo

Uploaded by cdcrash72 on Feb 13, 2009

My thanks to the website from which the information on Julia Edwards is excerpted. My thanks also to the performers and uploaders of the videos. Thank you for visiting this page.

Viewer comments are welcome.

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