Legacy of famed choreographer lives on

Acclaimed performer Nina Watt will present a lecture tonight on Jose Limon, the world-renowned Mexican-American choreographer and creator of the Limon Dance Company. The presentation will focus on the religious elements that permeated much of Limon’s work.

Watt became a performer in the Limon Dance Company in 1972 and quickly became one of Limon’s distinguished soloists. She was appointed artistic associate to the company in 1992. As an associate, she teaches workshops and gives lectures and demonstrations on Limon’s distinct dance style. She also teaches the tradition of Limon to other dance companies. She is currently teaching master’s classes at USF and is restaging Missa Brevis, a classic Limon presentation, with the USF School of Theatre and Dance.

According to www.Limon.org, Limon was “a crucial figure in the development of modern dance.” His choreography was not gender-specific, which helped transform the image of the male dancer.

A native to Mexico, Limon studied art at UCLA for one year and then moved to New York, where he saw his first dance performance.

He began dancing soon after, in 1928. He created his own dance company in 1946, with the help of mentor Doris Humphrey, who was the artistic director of the company until her death in 1958. Limon choreographed at least one dance each year with his company until his death in 1972. His works are considered masterpieces of the modern dance world.

“It is impossible to underestimate the importance of Jose Limon’s legacy in the modern dance tradition,” said Michael Foley, assistant professor of dance at USF. “His impact changed the whole aesthetic — from how the body moves freely through space to the incorporation of his own culture as a Mexican-American into new gestures, postures and rhythms. Without a doubt, any dancer working today has been exposed to and changed by Limon’s powerful dance legacy.”

As a member of the dance company, Watt performed in the White House during the Clinton administration, in embassies in Europe and South America and in cities throughout the Soviet Union and the Middle East as part of two separate state department tours. She was featured in a 1996 issue of Dance Magazine, named “Best Bet” by New York Magazine twice during her career and received the Bessie award, New York’s dance performance award, in 2002.

The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the College of Visual and Performing Arts Theater 1. It is free and open to the public. It has been made possible by the Louise and Arnold Kotler Lecture Series.