Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Abby. Abby Wonders, “Why are persons flexible?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Abby!
Do you like to dance? Have you ever shimmied under a pole to test out how limber you are? Whether it was at a wedding reception or an end-of-school party, you've probably done the limbo at some time in the past.
With music blaring and shouts of "How low can you go?" echoing from the line of dancers, one person after another approaches the limbo pole and slowly bends backwards as they try to maneuver under the pole without touching it.
If you touch the pole, of course, you're out. Only those who successfully snake underneath the pole get to go to the end of the line to test their skills for another round. The task gets more difficult, though. At the beginning of each new round, the pole gets lowered another notch.
Eventually, the pole is so low that only one person can wiggle underneath it. That person is the winner and the game can start all over again!
Although the limbo is a fun party dance today, its origins are quite the opposite. Limbo got its start as a traditional dance contest on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. Rather than parties, though, the limbo was performed at funerals, wakes, and other somber occasions.
The limbo got its start among African slaves who were transported to the Caribbean on crowded ships. Historians believe the dance symbolizes how slaves would have to squeeze through tight spaces in the slave ships to find their friends and family members.
Eventually, the limbo made its way into the mainstream. Dance pioneer Julia Edwards, known as "the First Lady of Limbo," paired the dance with upbeat calypso music during the 1950s and introduced it to an international audience through films and worldwide tours.
Many others helped to popularize the limbo during the 1950s and 1960s. For example, Chubby Checker's hit song "Limbo Rock" gave us the phrase "How low can you go?"
If you're WONDERing how low someone can go while doing the limbo, the answer is 8.5 inches off the floor. That's the Guinness World Record for limbo dancing set in 2010 by Shemika Campbell.
If you're having trouble visualizing how low that is, imagine this: Shemika Campbell can limbo underneath a car. With six hours of practice each day and weekly visits to the chiropractor, she's able to limbo all the way under an SUV with about 8.5 inches of ground clearance!