KATHERINE DUNHAM (1909–2006)
Anthropologist, Ethnologue, Choreographer, Dancer, creator of the Dunham Technique, author, Scholar, activist and humanist
Katherine DunhamLegendary dancer, choreographer and anthropologist, Katherine Dunham was born on June 22,1909 in Chicago, to an African American father and a French Canadian mother. Although initially she never thought about a career in dance, but instead, her family erged her to be an educator. Once she was able followed her brother, Albert Dunham Jr. to the University of Chicago, where she became one of the first African American women to attend this University and earned bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees in anthropology.
She attends a lecture by Robert Redfield, a professor of anthropology who specialized in American Indian and African cultures. From him she learns that much of black culture in modern America had begun in Africa. She decides to major in anthropology and to focus on dances of the African diaspora. In the course of her studies, she attends classes taught by Redfield, A. R. Radcliffe-Browne, Edward Sapir, Lloyd Warner, and others.
Following graduation, she founded the Negro Dance Group, in 1933. They performed at the Chicago Beaux Arts Theater, and one of the performances was attended by Mrs. Alfred Rosenwald Stern, who arranged an invitation for Dunham to appear before the Rosenwald Foundation, which offered to finance any study contributing toward her dance career. With the money she was given, Dunham spent most of the next two years in the Caribbean studying all aspects of dance and the motivations behind dance. Although she traveled throughout the region, including Trinidad and Jamaica, it was in Haiti that she found special personal and artistic resonances.
Katherine Dunham revolutionized American dance in the 1930’s by going to the roots of black dance and rituals transforming them into significant artistic choreography that speaks to all. She was a pioneer in the use of folk and ethnic choreography and one of the founders of the anthropological dance movement. She showed the world that African American heritage is beautiful. She completed groundbreaking work on Caribbean and Brazilian dance anthropology as a new academic discipline. She is credited for bringing these Caribbean and African influences to a European-dominated dance world. Read more about Katherine Dunham and many more of her contributions to not only the dance, but also film, theater and academic world via any of the cited links below