Katherine Dunham

>> Saturday, July 7

Here is one of my favorite entertainers. She is an inspiration to me on so many levels. I am a dancer and her style, movements and grace are things I try to emulate.  I thought I would share my love of Katherine Dunham with all of you. She was my hero and my icon.

Katherine Mary Dunham

Born: June 22, 1909 Chicago, Illinois

Died: May 21, 2006

Occupation: choreographer, dancer

Miss Katherine Dunham was born in Joliet, Illinois in 1909. She became one of the first African Americans to attend the University of Chicago where she earned bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees in anthropology. Supported by a Rosenwald Fellowship, she completed groundbreaking work on Caribbean and Brazilian dance anthropology as a new academic discipline. In 1931, Miss Dunham established her first dance school in Chicago. She began one of the most successful dance careers in the American and European theater in 1934, which led to leading roles in musicals, operas and cabarets throughout the world.

In the late 1930’ Miss Dunham established her own dance school and touring company in New York City. The Katherine Dunham Troupe won critical acclaim throughout the 1940s while performing more than 100 original works choreographed by Miss Dunham. Miss Dunham is also credited with developing one of the most important pedagogues for teaching dance which is still used throughout the world. In the late 1930’s, Miss Dunham married one of America’s most highly regarded theatrical designers, Mr. John Pratt, forming a powerful creative team that lasted until his death in the 1960’s.

Throughout her illustrious career as one of the world’s most respected dancers, choreographers and teachers, Miss Dunham used her talents fame and resources to call public attention to social injustices at home and abroad. A 47-day hunger strike Miss Dunham undertook in 1993, at the age of 82, helped shift public opinion towards America’s relations with Haiti, resulting in the return of Haiti’s first duly-elected president.

In 1967, Miss Dunham joined the faculty of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, where she helped create a performing arts training center and established a dance anthropology program. In 1969, Miss Dunham created a community-based arts education program in East St. Louis, called the Katherine Dunham Centers for the Arts and Humanities. The centers seek to provide Metro East residents with an opportunity to witness and participate in all of the fine, performing and cultural arts. The centers are the St. Louis Metropolitan region’s only multi-disciplinary arts organizations devoted to the study, appreciation and celebration of diverse cultures.

Miss Dunham’s intellectual, artistic, and humanitarian contributions have earned her many coveted awards over the years, including the Presidential Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, French Legion of Honor, Southern Cross of Brazil, Grand Cross of Haiti, NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, Lincoln Academy Laureate, and the Urban Leagues’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Miss Dunham was one of 75 women whose lives were celebrated in the book, I Have A Dream.


Luscious Librarian August 11, 2007 at 8:18 AM  

I just did a similar post about her. She was just so powerful on so many levels.

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