Limmbó (Limmm-Bó) is a unique dance also known as the “Under Stick Dance.” Originally performed at wakes in Trinidad, the limbo dance does not have roots in West Africa, where most African traditions came from within the diaspora.
The people of Trinidad performed this dance to represent being carried off into slavery by a slave ship. Despite twisting and turning, squirming, and arching, it would only sink further and more profound. Due to the narrow space between the upper deck and floor, the dextrous position had to be retained, as standing was not possible in the distance between the upper deck and floor.
In the 1950s, dance pioneer Julia Edwards (aka First Lady of Limbo) popularized the dance, which appeared in several films, including Fire Down Below (1957), and was performed all over the Caribbean, Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Africa in the 1960s.
Back in the 1960s, Fire Limbo was done as a stage act and some contests were held, but due to legal repercussions, this was prohibited. Fire Limbo is a Limbo Dance except the stick, which is set ablaze during the dance, along with a lighted torch which the dancer blows alcohol into for an explosion of fire. The Fire Limbo was performed by professionals and should not be tried at home for obvious reasons. Over time, local entertainers adapted and transformed the ritual into the stage performance we know today.
Below are some pictures of limbo dancers at a nightclub in Los Angeles in 1964.