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Two different ways to deal with gravity

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In Limón vocabulary there are two major concepts related to fall and recovery actions: the principles of overcurve and undercurve. These are two opposite ways of facing gravity and initiating a movement. In the first case, the action arises from a push, in which one repels the ground to grow upward and then fall away. In the second, on the contrary, the weight shift starts from a fall.


The overcurve originates as an Apollonian action and is related to the rebound principle. The hip draws an arc, or just a part of it, upward. The action begins with a muscular effort, a steady push of the supporting foot or feet against the ground, to reach an opposition that extends along the alignment of all the joints involved; an opposition that there is especially between the heel and the corresponding hip. After that, one falls further, pushing and dropping the hip outward. In fact, this impulse is used to fall far and not in place as is the case in the undercurve. To best convey the sensation to be sought, the term up and over is also used in the technique. 

The overcurve always seeks verticality first, that feeling of extension and expansion toward the sky. Even when it arises from simple standing, the legs, or the standing leg, extend as a consequence of an upward thrust. The heel creates opposition not only in relation to the hip, but also, for example, in relation to the direction of the chest, head and other parts of the body. The opposition also persists during the action as the hip moves away from its center; in fact, it is important that during the motion phase the heel tries to resist, opposing the fall and staying as long as possible on the ground. We can direct the pushing and falling action to any side, but without forgetting the importance of the movement acting in the opposite direction.


As with the Apollonian and the Dionysian, and fall and recovery, we have an opposite principle here. The other side of the coin belongs to the idea of undercurve. The Dionysian sister of overcurve is related to swing. It begins with releasing one's weight in place, which by putting pressure on the joints of the hips, knees and ankles, allows them to flex without any muscle strain. By then pushing our weight away after the fall, we can direct it laterally in a new direction to allow further movement of the body in space. The last action will be to push the weight upward in order to recover and save ourselves from the risk of a dynamic death.

In this case, the path of the hip during the undercurve draws a downward curved arc, but the action does not have to complete by following the entire radius of the curvature.

By repeating this idea of movement over and over again, a real feeling of swing can be generated, the same feeling that a child perceives when swinging on a see-saw, and which we can also rediscover within the technique, for example in balancé movements.


Overcurve and undercurve are not always performed as in the illustrations, but I think this is a clear demonstration of how expressively different they can be from each other. In addition to having a different rhythm, the spirit in which one decides to deal with gravity also changes.

By joining the arcs drawn by the hip in space, then alternating between an undercurve and an overcurve, one can immediately perceive that the dynamics of movement become cyclical. The two actions can interpenetrate each other, as happens in the identification between Dionysus and Apollo; an idea that has deep roots in what is the essence of Humphrey and Limón's philosophy of motion.

Written by Matteo Mascolo.

Translations: Text translated into English by Alberto Rabachin and Bianca Pasquinelli, into Spanish by Matteo Mascolo.

Sources: The information is based on my personal learning about Limón technique, undertaken through the study programs of the Limón Dance Company in which I took part.

La Tecnica di danza di Doris Humprhey: Chi siamo
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