Katherine Dunham

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Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham in 1956.
Born(1909-06-22)June 22, 1909
DiedMay 21, 2006(2006-05-21) (aged 96)
New York City, U.S

Katherine Dunham (born June 22, 1909)[1][2] was an American dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist.[1] She is best known for bringing African and Caribbean dance styles to the US.[1] Dunham also created the Dunham Technique.[1] The Dunham Technique is still taught today.[3] She created many all-black dance groups. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the Albert Schweitzer prize, Kennedy Center Honors and membership in the French Legion of Honor.[3]

Early Life[change | change source]

Katherine Dunham was born on June 22, 1909, in Chicago.[1] Her father Albert was a descendant of enslaved people taken from Madagascar and West Africa.[3] Her mother, Fanny June, was French Canadian.[3] She had an older brother named Albert Jr.[1][2] Her mother died when Dunham was four years old.[2] She and her brother went to go live with their aunt, Lulu.[2] Her father married Annette Poindexter in 1915.[2] Dunham and her brother returned to live with their father and stepmother.[2] Dunham later went to the University of Chicago.[1]

Dance[change | change source]

Katherine Dunham was best known for her work as a dancer. Her church ran out of money when she was eight years old.[1] She performed a cabaret to raise money.[1]

Dunham was a student of Ludmilla Speranzeva.[1] She later founded one of the first all-black ballet companies “Ballet Négre”.[1] In 1933 she ran her first school, the Negro Dance Group.[1] While performing with her company, she was found by dance teacher Ms. Alfred. Ms. Alfred saw her talent. She gave her the money to go to the Caribbean in 1935.[1] When Dunham returned, she brought back the Afro-Caribbean style of dancing.[1] She mixed the Afro-Caribbean style with European styles to make the Dunham Technique.[1] People of all races found her work to be inspiring.[1] Katherine Dunham worked with George Balanchine for the production of “Cabin in the Sky” in 1940.[1] In 1944 she founded the “Dunham School”. There, she taught the Dunham Technique and anthropology to students. The “Dunham School” was later named the “Katherine Dunham School of Arts and Research.”[1] She later creates a new dance group called “Katherine Dunham Dance Group”. They toured 57 different countries for 2 decades.[1] In 1971 Dunham won the “Dance Division Heritage Award”.[2] She continued to perform her ballets and teach.

Broadway, Movies, Books, and Shows[change | change source]

Katherine Dunham wrote many books. She began her writing career at 13. Her first story was “Come Back to Arizona”.[1][2] It was published in W.E.B. Du Buois' magazine, The Brownies' Book.[2] She later wrote magazines from the Carribean. Dunahm also wrote “Kasanabce: A Fantasy”.[2] She also choreographed for many shows. These shows included “Tropics”, “Le Jazz ‘Hot’”, “Cabin in the Sky”, “Windy city” and “Aida.”[1][2] Her movies included “Mambo” and “Carnival of Rhythm.”[2] Katherine Dunham also choreographed for Broadway. She choreographed for Pins and Needles.[2]

Anthropology[change | change source]

Dunham was an Anthropologist. She began by going to a talk by Robert Redfield.[2] She found it interesting. Her major was anthropology.[2] Dunham then went to the Carribean. She loved it there. When she returned, she changed her major to dance anthropology.[1] Katherine Dunham then started a dance anthropology school called “Dunham School of Arts and Cultural Studies”.[1]

Advocate for Justice[change | change source]

Katherine Dunham fought for what she thought was right. She refused to preform at segregated theaters. In 1992 she went on a hunger strike. She was fighting for Haitian immigrants. She went on hunger strike for 47 days when Hatian refugees to the United States were sent back to Haiti.[1] In 1993 Katherine Dunham got a Haitian citizenship.

Death[change | change source]

Katherine Dunham died on May 12 2006[1]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 "Katherine Dunham Biography" Archived 2019-08-25 at the Wayback Machine. kdcah.org. Retrieved 2022-02-03
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 "Timeline: The Katherine Dunham Collection at the Library of Congress (Performing Arts Encyclopedia, The Library of Congress)". memory.loc.gov. Retrieved 2022-02-03.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Anderson, Jack (2006-05-22). "Katherine Dunham, Dance Pioneer, Dies at 96". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-02-03.