National Medal of Arts

The José Limón Dance Foundation is being recognized for its innovative contributions to America modern dance over half a century. Acclaimed for its dramatic expression, technical mastery, and expansive, yet nuanced movement, the Limón Dance Company illustrates the timelessness of José Limón's work and vision.

The company was founded by the late José Arcadio Limón (1908-1972), a pioneering modern dancer and choreographer born in Mexico who moved to New York City in 1928 where he studied and performed with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. Ten years after he began dancing, Limón premiered his first major choreographic work, Danzas Mexicanas. He was drafted in 1943 and served several years in the U.S. Army Special Services.

When the war ended, Limón founded the José Limón Dance Company in 1946 with Doris Humprrey as artistic director. In 1947, The José Limón Dance Company had its debut performance at New York's Belasco Theater. The New York Times hailed Limón as "the finest male dancer of his time" and favorably reviewed the choreographic works of both Limón and Humphrey. Some of the classic works Limón created are There is a Time, The Moor's Pavane, Psalm, Missa Brevis, and A Choreographic Offering.

Limón died of cancer in 1972 but his company continued, becoming the first modern dance company to survive its founder's death. Now led by Carla Maxwell, who worked closely with Limón before becoming artistic director in 1978, the company celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2006.

The company expanded its reach during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1985, the Limón Institute was formed as a component of the José Limón Dance Foundation to oversee the licensing of Limón dances and offer classes in Limón Technique. In 1994, it established a formal presence in San Jose, California, performing annually and conducting education and outreach activities.

The company's repertory, which balances classic works with commissions from contemporary choreographers, is of an unparalleled breadth, creating unique experiences for audiences around the world. When on tour, the company conducts a variety of programs including master classes that offer students opportunities to learn from artists who are immersed in the Limón style and repertory, and workshops, lectures, and pre- and post-performance talks that educate participants in Limón history and tradition and build a deeper understanding of the company's work.

The achievements of the José Limón Dance Foundation include inaugurating the U.S. State Department's International Exchange Program with a tour to South America in 1954. Nine years later, the company became the first dance company to perform at Lincoln Center, in Philharmonic Hall. The company has also performed at the White House, during the Johnson and Clinton Administrations.