Katherine Dunham

Joanna Dee Das

Published in print July 2017 | ISBN: 9780190264871
Published online April 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190264901 | DOI:
Katherine Dunham

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Katherine Dunham (1909–2006) was one of the twentieth century’s most important dance artists. As an African American woman, she broke several barriers of race and gender, most notably as the founder of a dance company that toured the world for several decades. She was also one of the first choreographers to conduct anthropological research and then translate her findings for the theatrical stage. Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora makes the argument that Dunham was not only a dancer but also an intellectual and activist who influenced the long black freedom struggle on an international scale. From the New Negro Movement to the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Power Movement and beyond, Dunham articulated a place for dance in the fight against racial inequality and emphasized a diasporic perspective. The book examines how Dunham struggled to balance these political commitments with artistic dreams, personal desires, and economic needs, all in the face of racism and sexism. It assesses her dance performances as a form of black feminist protest while also presenting new material about her schools in New York and East St. Louis, her work in Haiti, and her network of interlocutors that included figures as diverse as ballet choreographer George Balanchine and Senegalese president Léopold Sédar Senghor. By drawing on a vast, never-utilized trove of archival materials, along with oral histories, choreographic analysis, and embodied research, Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora offers new insight about how this remarkable woman built political solidarity through the arts.

Keywords: Katherine Dunham; dance; choreography; African diaspora; black freedom struggle; Civil Rights Movement; Haiti; East St. Louis; anthropology; activism

Book.  288 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Dance ; American Music

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