In May 1977 four dancers performed at Auckland University's Maidment Theatre under the simple designation 'Chris Jannides and Friends'. Augmented by further recruits the following year, including the gifted dancer and choreographer Mary-Jane O'Reilly, who soon became the troupe's artistic director, they changed their name to Limbs and began dancing at festivals, night clubs, parks, campuses, schools and other venues throughout New Zealand. With the support of the Auckland University Student Association, they established a studio in Grafton, where they taught modern dance and ballet. Regarding dance education as an essential component of their activities, the company also offered workshops while on tour.
With Mary-Jane O'Reilly as the driving force, Limbs had expanded by the mid-1980s to seventeen full-time members. As well as drawing upon an unusually broad range of pre-existing music for their dance routines (from Bach and Stravinsky to Miles Davis and Talking Heads), the company frequently commissioned works from local composers, such as Don McGlashan, Jan Preston, Wayne Laird and Ivan Zagni. Their innovative choreography was acclaimed not just nationally but around the globe, with successful tours of Australia, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Mexico, Hong Kong and Japan. Personnel varied during the company's twelve-year span, but included such renowned choreographers and performers as Douglas Wright, Mark Baldwin, Shona McCullagh, Brian Carbee, Catherine Chappell, Taiaroa Royal and Marianne Schultz.
When Limbs decided to close down operations in October 1989, the general manager, Sue Paterson, arranged for the company's records (dozens of boxloads) to come to the Library and helped to organise the collection. Filling thirty shelves, the archive covers all aspects of the enterprise from administrative files to advertising posters. An invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of New Zealand dance, it contains a wealth of photographs and audio and video tapes, as well as handwritten manuscripts, typescripts and printed material.