Katherine Dunham

Don’t think you are going to go on forever because you are not and begin to plan something that will compensate as you reduce your capacities to leap or turn on this or that or the other, begin thinking of something else.
—  Katherine Dunham, Katherine Dunham Interview

The brilliant dancer, choreographer and activist, Katherine Dunham (1909-2006), performing her work, “Afrique,” circa 1962. Ms. Dunham formed Ballet Nègre, one of the first black ballet companies in the United States in 1930 and, along with African dance, studied dances from Jamaica, Trinidad and Haiti as a part of her anthropological fieldwork. She studied at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 1936. Photo: Roger Wood, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

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I’m posting these for those who have been asking me about the children’s alphabet book “A is for Angela.” It’s happening. It’s not my main focus at the moment but my sons seem to like the ones I’ve done so it shall be completed. :)  #StayTuned 

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I will repost with new images when prints are available for purchase. I will also post a tentative release date for the book. 

Happy Birthday Katherine Dunham! (June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006) American dancer, choreographer, author, educator, and social activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century, and directed her own dance company for many years. 

Portrait of dancer Katherine Dunham. Autographed on front: “To Flora and Charlotte Dresser, still the two charming ladies of Detroit. Katherine Dunham.” Handwritten on back: “Dunham, Katherine." 

  • Courtesy of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts, Detroit Public Library

Katherine Dunham, circa 1940s. Ms. Dunham formed Ballet Nègre, one of the first black ballet companies in America in 1930, long before she was famous. She once said of her work, “I admit that a strong sociological purpose motivates my work and that there is a real drive in my purpose to present good looking, talented, clean, healthy-minded and healthy bodied young American Negroes in a repertoire of dance mimes and sketches.“ Photo: Corbis.

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Born on this day…

Katherine Dunham

dancer, choreographer, author, educator, and social activist

June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006

Books:

Island Possessed

Just as surely as Haiti is “possessed” by the gods and spirits of vaudun (voodoo), the island “possessed” Katherine Dunham when she first went there in 1936 to study dance and ritual. In this book, Dunham reveals how her anthropological research, her work in dance, and her fascination for the people and cults of Haiti worked their spell, catapulting her into experiences that she was often lucky to survive. Here Dunham tells how the island came to be possessed by the demons of voodoo and other cults imported from various parts of Africa, as well as by the deep class divisions, particularly between blacks and mulattos, and the political hatred still very much in evidence today. Full of the flare and suspense of immersion in a strange and enchanting culture, Island Possessed is also a pioneering work in the anthropology of dance and a fascinating document on Haitian politics and voodoo.

A Touch of Innocence: Memoirs of Childhood

An internationally known dancer, choreographer, and gifted anthropologist, Katherine Dunham was born to a black American tailor and a well-to-do French Canadian woman twenty years his senior. This book is Dunham’s story of the chaos and conflict that entered her childhood after her mother’s early death.

In stark prose, she tells of growing up in both black and white households and of the divisions of race and class in Chicago that become the harsh realities of her young life. A riveting narrative of one girl’s struggle to transcend the painful confusions of a family and culture in turmoil, Dunham’s story is full of the clarity, candor, and intelligence that lifted her above her troubled beginnings.

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Eartha Kitt talks getting into Katherine Dunham's Ballet Company, life before, and life after.

Dance icon Katherine Dunham with two of her dancers and actor and singer Tony Martin in the 1948 film, “Casbah.” The film was about a group of jewel thieves led by Mr. Martin’s “Pepe Le Moko” in Algiers. Bonus trivia: Mr. Martin was married to the legendary dancer Cyd Charrisse for 60 years and none other than Eartha Kitt made her film debut here - she was one of Ms. Dunham’s dancers. Photo: Missouri Historical Society via The Library of Congress.