Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #19

Contents

DUNHAM’S POWERFUL INFLUENCE

DUNHAM LEAVES HER LEGACY

DUNHAM’S EFFECT ON NEW GENERATIONS

IMPULSE DANCE REMEMBERS DUNHAM

“ANGELS IN AMERICA” DIVERSIFIES CASTS

A MOVIE WITH A LOT OF HEART

CARS – A GREAT FAMILY SUMMER MOVIE

ONE LOVE DVD’s ON SALE

UPCOMING EVENTS


DUNHAM’S POWERFUL INFLUENCE

by Kay Bourne

05404e12c0e41f9590a694bb360a26a2.104.124 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #19 KATHERINE DUNHAM, 1910 – 2006. The legendary Katherine Dunham has died at96. A pioneer in the dance world and beyond, she wasa dancer and choreography, a Broadway success and ananthropologist, a teacher and author, a civil rightsactivist and humanitarian. This issue of the KayBourne Arts Report is dedicated to this arts heroine.

Katherine Dunham was 81 when I met her, and walkingwith a cane because of arthritis. In her view,however, she still danced. “People say to me, whendid you stop dancing? I tell them, Never! I think ifyou ever danced, you don’t stop. That’s because ifyou danced properly, you danced inside.”

She said she found the strength she demonstrated inall she risked and did as a result of challengingthe color consciousness that functioned to limit heropportunities.

As to the arthritis, she says, “it first hit mewhen I was 10 or 11. And I found it hurt worse goingdown, then going up.”

Her life abundantly illustrates Katherine Dunhamchose to go up.

Katherine Dunham had already established herself asa dancer/choreographer, and was leading her owncompany when she was a student at the University ofChicago, studying anthropology. She won a RosenwaldFoundation grant that enabled her to travel to theCaribbean. Her trip included a stay in a village ofMaroons, in the uplands of Jamaica, later describedin her first book “Journey to Accompong” (1946).

At the crossroads of an academic career in anthropology or a performing career in dance, shechose to go down both paths.

Her New York debut, March 7, 1937, at thecelebrated YMHA’s Negro Dance Evening, was atriumph. She became dance director for the WPAFederal Theatre Project in Chicago, and in 1938performed “L’Ag ‘Ya,” a dance based on the folkloreshe had recorded and studied in Martinique.

In 1939, she went to New York again, this time asdance director for “Pins and Needles” at the NewYork Labor Stage, but bringing along her company inhopes of doing some of their repertoire.

She obtained the Windsor Theater at Broadway and48th, presenting “Tropics and Le Hot Jazz,” with acast that included her principal drummer Papa Augustin.

The following year saw her and her companyperforming on Broadway in “Cabin in the Sky” at theMartin Beck, which ran through 1941. During thisperiod she was also writing and publishing articleson anthropology under the name Kaye Dunham.

Her career continued in like fashion through thedecades until the 60′s, including tours of Mexicoand Europe from 1947 – 1949, opening in London with”Caribbean Rhapsody” in 1948. This company includedEartha Kitt. Then, a talented but untried teenagerfrom Harlem who’d made it into the Dunham company inNew York, Kitt can be heard on a Decca Recordsalbum, “Katherine Dunham and ensemble/Afro-CaribbeanSongs And Rhythms.” These were songs Dunham hadcollected in her travels through the African Diaspora.

She so influenced Alvin Ailey, for one of herheirs, he devoted a season, 1988, to recreating thedances of the Katherine Dunham company. Her workshave been integrated into the operas “Faust,” ScottJoplin’s “Treemonisha,” and the New York MetropolitanOpera’s 1964 production of “Aida.”

“I intended to tie the arts and science closertogether in a dance anthropology, a collaboration,”she said.

This marriageof approaches to dance “is what I remain very muchinterested in and have been interested in all my life…I think I wasput here to do what I have done,” she said.

Women’s Intn’l Center KATHERINE DUNHAM bio


DUNHAM LEAVES HER LEGACY

by Cheryl K. Symister-Masterson

08a389436efdf3b031fa58c67cfb69df.124.120 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #19 Katherine Dunham’s obituary on May 22, 2006, one day afterher death, was probably quickly scanned by mostMonday morning readers and forgotten. Yet, to callthis great American dancer, choreographer,anthropologist, writer, activist and voodoopriestess ‘multi-talented’ and ‘multi-faceted’ are dimdescriptions.

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