How low can YOU go? Free limbo party at Count Basie Square, Grand Bahama Island [classic article]

Friday night partying can be tricky if you’re traveling alone or with people who don’t usually hang out in bars. You want the excitement, but in a safe atmosphere and with an end to the evening that doesn’t drag on and on . . .

In Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island, there’s a public square named after the Jazz great Count Basie. On Friday nights, there’s a free family-friendly party in the square, surrounded by bars! You’re allowed to have an adult beverage outside, if you like.

I saw line dancing done to a live band and Bahamian torch singer. Lots of people joined in . . . I had my opportunity to do so myself, but I was on the job.

Then, came the man they call “The Emperor”! He’s the island’s most famous limbo master. Limbo dance has an interesting Caribbean history according to Wiki:

The word ‘limbo’ dates back to the 1950s. It is conjectured that limbo is a West Indian English derivative of ‘limber’. Limber is a sixteenth-century word used in the dialectical sense to refer to a cart shaft, alluding to its to and fro motion. “Consistent with certain African beliefs, the dance reflects the whole cycle of life”.[1] “The dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered from chest level, and they emerge on the other side, as their heads clear the pole, as in the triumph of life over death”.[1] This dance is also used as a funeral dance and may be related to the African legba or legua dance.[2]

The limbos dates back to the mid to late 1800s in Trinidad. It achieved mainstream popularity during the 1950s. An alternative explanation of the name is suggested; that the version of the limbo performed in nineteenth century Trinidad was meant to symbolize slaves entering the galleys of a slave ship, or a spirit crossing over into the afterworld, or “limbo”, but no literary reference is known to substantiate this linkage.

The Emperor happened to have his 83 year old teacher there that night, who had a few slick moves of his own left!

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