Limbo is a popular party game that originated from more humble beginnings on the Caribbean islands. Now, however, the game may be most familiar to those who have played it in gym class during elementary school or at a birthday party or family gatherings. As it might have been some time since you last played Limbo, read on and re-familiarize yourself with this often-played party piece, along with learning some interesting tidbits in the process.
Limbo was not always simply a game. It originated on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. There, it was originally considered a dance, and the participants would sway to the rhythm of music while contorting under the bar. Much as the game does today, the dance served as a entertaining focal point that was useful during gatherings or celebrations.
The underlying significance of limbo is a bit darker. Some believe that the movements of the dance symbolize the descent that one must undertake when descending into the hold of a slave ship. As the cargo space between the deck of the ship and the floor beneath was exceedingly narrow, the slaves were forced to hold themselves in the trademark bent-back position of the dance.
Rules of the Game
The rules of limbo are deceptively simple, yet it takes an individual with remarkable flexibility to perform well. A pole is held parallel to the ground by two people (or propped up on a stand). The contestants form a line and, in turn, they attempt to pass under the bar. After everyone in the line has made an attempt, the bar is lowered an inch or two and the process repeats.
When passing under the bar, players must bend backwards. No part of their bodies may touch the bar and no part other than their feet may touch the ground.
The rules of limbo quite literally make it a last-man standing process. A contestant is eliminated from the game where he falls over, touches the bar, or is otherwise unable to completely clear the bar without touching the ground. As contestants are eliminated, the duration between an individual's turns decreases. In this, the later stages of limbo become an endurance contest in addition to a progressive flexibility exhibition.