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JULIA EDWARDS

DATE OF BIRTH:1933

PLACE OF BIRTH:Port-of-Spain

EDUCATION:Tranquillity Girls' School

She is recognized as Trinidad and Tobago's First Lady of Limbo, dancer extraordinaire.

She began dancing in1947, when her eldest brother Irwin took her to rehearsals with Boscoe Holder's dance troupe. When Boscoe left to pursue his career in England, she continued dancing with the troupe after his brother, Geoffrey, took over its leadership.

Eventually, Geoffrey also left Trinidad in 1953 to pursue his career and Edwards started choreographing for her own dance troupe, the Julia Edwards Dance Group.

Her group went on to perform at the most popular hotels, clubs, and restaurants. While performing the limbo at the local nightclub Miramar, her dancers were recruited to appear in the 1957 American movie "Fire Down Below." She was credited with introducing the flaming limbo in 1959 when she included it in a performance to mark the opening of Queen's Hall in St. Ann's.

Edwards' dance group has appeared on various stages throughout the USA, including the Radio City Music Hall in New York, USA. The group also performed in other countries such as Haiti, India, Mexico, Senegal, Venezuela, and Yugoslavia. Although she continued to choreograph into the early 2000s, Edwards stopped dancing regularly with her group in 1972.

The Limbo is Trinidad and Tobago's only true national dance, originally performed at wakes. the limbo was done for nine nights, where some mourners said prayers and others danced the limbo. On the first night, the bar would be at its lowest and would be gradually raised each successive night. This symbolized the elevation of the soul of the dearly departed from its lowest levels on earth to the highest in heaven. When the bar was at it's highest, it was declared victory night, signifying life's triumph over death. On that victory night, the bongo was danced.

As a purely artistic endeavour, this did not sustain rapt attention because the climax came at the beginning, not at the end. She turned the dance on its head by using sticks to prop up the bar and the beginning at the highest point, while alluringly working her way down. Of course the costuming had to be more attractive than the mournful black and white, and consequently Helen Humphrey was brought in to do costuming that was more vibrant, and which is today being associated with the dance all over the world. Holly Betaudier, who was the first person to encourage her to dance professionally, came into the troupe to bring his tremendous organizational skills, and they introduced the signature song "I want somebody to Limbo like me" she further experimented, first introducing the flaming limbo and later the human limbo.

She took Limbo to every corner of the globe, from Dakar to London, Japan to India and from North and South America to Europe. Julia and her troupe not only gave command performances to appreciative audiences, but in its wake brought HONOR and glory to the country's Dance by stamping Trinidad and Tobago as the "Land of Limbo".

She danced at the opening of every major facility in the country: Hilton Hotel (where she and her troupe danced for over forty years), Queens Hall, The Penthouse located atop the Salvatori Building.

As a choreographer, she was unmatched. When 'Fire down Below' starring Robert Mitchum and Rita Haywood was being filmed in Tobago, She was not only asked to dance, but she did choreography for Ms. Haywood. She was then invited to London and then to Radio City Music Hall, where the Director was moved to describe her work as 'fantastic'. She later appeared on the famous Ed Sullivan Show where she held a wide television audience spellbound. But, because of the devotion to her family and country, Julia returned home without the fortune her growing fame was certain to bring.

She traveled extensively with Sparrow and Bill Trotman. Bill fondly recalls, wherever they went, the Birdie would pay deference always insisting that 'the Queen' not only be attended to first, but that she be given the best.

AWARD:

  • 1991 - Trinidad & Tobago Humming Bird Medal Gold (for Culture)