Katherine Dunham
Dancer, choreographer, songwriter, activist
Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham was an American dancer, choreographer, and company director as well as an author, educator, and social activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century and has been called the "matriarch and queen mother of black dance.
Biography
Katherine Dunham's personal information overview.
{{personal_detail.supertitle}}
{{personal_detail.title}}
{{personal_detail.title}}
Photo Albums
Popular photos of Katherine Dunham
News
News abour Katherine Dunham from around the web
Redmond writers club begins 25th year - STLtoday.com
Google News - over 5 years
Meetings focus on literary styles, development of the writer, cultural backgrounds, and special programs like Kwanzaa, Women's History Month and Da-Dum-Dun, a tribute to Miles Davis, Henry Dumas and Katherine Dunham. Since 1991 to 2008, EBRWC has also
Article Link:
Google News article
Tanzarchiv sucht Platz für Puccinelli - Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger
Google News - over 5 years
Zu den Vertretern des künstlerischen, vor allem des Ausdruckstanzes, mit denen er sich auseinandersetzte, zählen neben Mary Wigman und Martha Graham unter anderen Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey, Harald Kretzberg und Katherine Dunham
Article Link:
Google News article
Con vida negra y pureza propia - CUBAENCUENTRO.com
Google News - over 5 years
The Poems and Songs of Nicolás Guillén (1946), presentado en la academia de danza de Katherine Dunham. Además de la recitadora, tomaron parte Hughes, que leyó traducciones al inglés de varios poemas de Guillén, y la cantante Eartha Kitt,
Article Link:
Google News article
Neighborhood streets, then and now - St. Louis American
Google News - over 5 years
Locally streets should bear the names of Ernest and Daverne Calloway, Marion Oldham, Morris Henderson, Katherine Dunham, Judge Nathan Young, Judge Clyde Cahill, Nathaniel Sweets, Percy Green, Norman Seay, Freeman Bosley Jr, William L Clay Sr. and
Article Link:
Google News article
Leah Maddrie, 'Chasing Heaven' Playwright And Director, Answers Questions - Huffington Post
Google News - over 5 years
I am aware of the legacies of numerous people and groups -- the theatre companies that thrived in Harlem during the 20s through the 50s and performing arts pioneers like Alvin Ailey, Katherine Dunham and Ira Aldridge. "Our Town," "St. Joan of the
Article Link:
Google News article
Tendrá timbre postal en EU - Noroeste
Google News - over 5 years
El fundador de la Compañía José Limón en 1943, es parte de esta colección postal junto con bailarines como Isadora Duncan, Katherine Dunham y Bob Fosse, todos ellos, importantes creadores de la danza moderna. Nacido en Culiacán, Sinaloa, en 1908,
Article Link:
Google News article
Legendary Choreographer Bob Fosse to Be Honored with US Stamp - Broadway.com
Google News - over 5 years
Fosse will be joined by Isadora Duncan, José Limón, and Katherine Dunham in individual stamps designed to look like posters advertising a live performance. Fosse's Tony Awards spanned 30 years on Broadway, beginning with The Pajama Game (1955) and
Article Link:
Google News article
Lena Horne and Katherine Dunham Break Ground in Stormy Weather - FemPop
Google News - over 5 years
Just when the number seems like it might drift too far away from the rhythm set by the film as a whole Katherine Dunham slinks her way across stage with her entire dance troupe at her back. I'm not a particularly big fan of modern dance, but Dunham's
Article Link:
Google News article
Essays examine East St. Louis - STLtoday.com
Google News - over 5 years
They praise famous hometown achievers: Katherine Dunham, Miles Davis, Jackie Joyner Kersee. And they discuss the sweatshop jobs that put food on the tables of hardscrabble people yearning for better. A common theme for irony is the city's designation
Article Link:
Google News article
Dancin' Feats - Windy City Times
Google News - over 5 years
The concert will feature new pieces by guest choreographers featuring Reggie Wilson, founder and artistic director of Fist and Heel Performance Group in New York, and Theo Jamison, who is one of the original Katherine Dunham Dancers in East St. Louis
Article Link:
Google News article
Norman Rockwell Museum Presents "Sol Schwartz: Drawing in the Dark" - Art Daily
Google News - over 5 years
... over the years has completed thousands of studies, including likenesses of such musical, dance and theater superstars as André Previn, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, Seiji Ozawa, Yo-Yo Ma, Katherine Dunham, Savion Glover, Mark Morris, and many others
Article Link:
Google News article
Baila para mí - Página 12
Google News - over 5 years
Hay un aspecto que yo relaciono con Katherine Dunham, que tenía una compañía que vino a Buenos Aires, y creo que él tenía algo de la estética de ella, que era una combinación de contemporáneo con folclore de diversas culturas”
Article Link:
Google News article
The Performers Academy soars high with a summer dance intensive that defies ... - Florida Times-Union
Google News - over 5 years
They modeled the freedom and fluidity made famous by Martha Graham, the West Indian influences of Katherine Dunham and the techniques of Lester Horton, Jose Limon and Merce Cunningham. "We wanted to set a piece that represented moving through life and
Article Link:
Google News article
Dance/USA conference to be held here next week - Chicago Tribune
Google News - over 5 years
Reggie Wilson, whose Fist & Heel troupe played the Dance Center of Columbia College last spring, will provide "SHOUTing Rings — a work," while Theo Jamison's CQ "The Blood" echoes the legendary Katherine Dunham's 1945 "Shango." The concert revives
Article Link:
Google News article
Abertas inscrições para oficinas durante o 3º Festival Nacional de Dança de ... - Portal Click
Google News - over 5 years
Público: profissionais, professores e estudantes de dança de nível intermediário e avançado. - Ementa: aulas estruturadas com base nas técnicas de Katherine Dunham, Lester Horton e Alvin Ailey – precursores da dança moderna americana
Article Link:
Google News article
Five East St. Louis agencies get help from United Way - Belleville News Democrat
Google News - over 5 years
The Salvation Army, Lessie Bates Neighborhood House, The East St. Louis Community Summer Camp program, Katherine Dunham Center and the Griffin Center each received a check for $25440 Friday. Vanessa Wayne, director of community investments said,
Article Link:
Google News article
Best bets - Belleville News Democrat
Google News - over 5 years
The Eugene B. Redmond Writer's Club will present Da-Dum-Dun, a multi-arts tribute to Miles Davis, Henry Dumas and Katherine Dunham, at 6 pm Tuesday. The free family event is in Building D of the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsvile/East St. Louis
Article Link:
Google News article
North native grows up to wow the world - The Times and Democrat
Google News - over 5 years
Her friends dared her to audition for the famed Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe. "I knew nothing about the kind of dancing they were doing," Kitt said. "But I went and just followed the steps. I won a full scholarship." A natural survivor because of her
Article Link:
Google News article
Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Katherine Dunham
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2006
    Age 96
    On May 21, 2006, at the age of 96, Dunham died in her sleep from natural causes in New York City.
    More Details Hide Details Anna Kisselgoff, a dance critic for the New York Times, called Dunham "a major pioneer in Black theatrical dance... ahead of her time." "In introducing authentic African dance-movements to her company and audiences, Dunham—perhaps more than any other choreographer of the time—exploded the possibilities of modern dance expression." As one of her biographers, Joyce Aschenbrenner, wrote: "Today, it is safe to say, there is no American black dancer who has not been influenced by the Dunham Technique, unless he or she works entirely within a classical genre", and the Dunham Technique is still taught to anyone who studies modern dance.
  • 2000
    Age 90
    The highly respected Dance magazine did a feature cover story on Dunham in August 2000 entitled "One-Woman Revolution."
    More Details Hide Details As Wendy Perron wrote, "Jazz dance, 'fusion,' and the search for our cultural identity all have their antecedents in Dunham's work as a dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist. She was the first American dancer to present indigenous forms on a concert stage, the first to sustain a black dance company. She created and performed in works for stage, clubs, and Hollywood films; she started a school and a technique that continue to flourish; she fought unstintingly for racial justice." Scholar of the arts Harold Cruse wrote in 1964: "Her early and lifelong search for meaning and artistic values for black people, as well as for all peoples, has motivated, created opportunities for, and launched careers for generations of young black artists... Afro-American dance was usually in the avant-garde of modern dance... Dunham's entire career spans the period of the emergence of Afro-American dance as a serious art."
  • 1986
    Age 76
    He continued as her artistic collaborator until his death in 1986.
    More Details Hide Details When she was not performing, Dunham and Pratt often visited Haiti for extended stays. On one of these visits, during the late 1940s, she purchased a large property of more than seven hectares in the Carrefours suburban area of Port-au-Prince, known as Habitation Leclerc. Dunham used Habitation Leclerc as a private retreat for many years, frequently bringing members of her dance company to recuperate from the stress of touring and to work on developing new dance productions. After running it as a tourist spot, with Vodun dancing as entertainment, in the early 1960s, she sold it to a French entrepreneur in the early 1970s. In 1949, Dunham returned from international touring with her company for a brief stay in the United States, where she suffered a temporary nervous breakdown after the premature death of her beloved brother Albert. He had been a promising philosophy professor at Howard University and a protégé of Alfred North Whitehead. During this time, she developed a warm friendship with the psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm, whom she had known in Europe. He was only one of a number of international celebrities who were Dunham's friends. In December 1951, a photo of Dunham dancing with Ismaili Muslim leader Prince Ali Khan at a private party he had hosted for her in Paris appeared in a popular magazine and fueled rumors that the two were romantically linked. Both Dunham and the prince denied the suggestion.
  • 1976
    Age 66
    In 1976 Dunham was guest artist-in-residence and lecturer for Afro-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
    More Details Hide Details A photographic exhibit honoring her achievements, entitled "Kaiso! Katherine Dunham," was mounted at the Women's Center on the campus. In 1978, an anthology of writings by and about her, also entitled Kaiso! Katherine Dunham, was published in a limited, numbered edition of 130 copies by the Institute for the Study of Social Change. The Katherine Dunham Company toured throughout North America in the mid-1940s, even performing in the then-segregated South, where Dunham once refused to hold a show after finding out that the city's black residents had not been allowed to buy tickets for the performance. On another occasion, in October 1944, after getting a rousing standing ovation in Louisville, Kentucky, she told the all-white audience that she and her company would not return because "your management will not allow people like you to sit next to people like us," and she expressed a hope that time and the "war for tolerance and democracy" would bring a change. One historian noted that "during the course of the tour, Dunham and the troupe had recurrent problems with racial discrimination, leading her to a posture of militancy which was to characterize her subsequent career."
  • FIFTIES
  • 1968
    Age 58
    It served as a catharsis after the 1968 riots, during which she encouraged gang members in the ghetto to vent their frustrations with drumming and dance.
    More Details Hide Details The PATC drew on former members of Dunham's touring company as well as local residents for its teaching staff. While trying to help the young people in the community she was even jailed herself, making international headlines which quickly embarrassed local police officials to release her. She also continued refining and teaching the Dunham Technique to transmit that knowledge to succeeding generations of dance students, and lecturing at annual Masters' Seminars in St. Louis that attracted dance students from around the world every summer until her death. She also established the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities in East St. Louis to preserve Haitian and African instruments and artifacts from her own personal collection.
  • 1967
    Age 57
    In 1967, Dunham opened the Performing Arts Training Center (PATC) in East St. Louis as an attempt to use the arts to combat poverty and urban unrest.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1965
    Age 55
    The following year, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson nominated Dunham to be technical cultural adviser—that is, a sort of cultural ambassador—to the government of Senegal in West Africa.
    More Details Hide Details Her mission was to help train the Senegalese National Ballet and to assist President Leopold Senghor with arrangements for the First Pan-African World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar (1965–66). Later she established a second home in Senegal and occasionally returned there to scout for talented African musicians and dancers.
  • 1964
    Age 54
    In 1964, Dunham settled in East St. Louis and took up the post of artist-in-residence at Southern Illinois University in nearby Edwardsville.
    More Details Hide Details There she was able to bring anthropologists, sociologists, educational specialists, scientists, writers, musicians, and theater people together to create a liberal arts curriculum that would be a foundation for further college work. One of her fellow professors with whom she collaborated was architect Buckminister Fuller.
  • 1963
    Age 53
    A highlight of Dunham's later career was the invitation from New York's Metropolitan Opera to stage dances for a new production of Aida starring Leontyne Price. Thus, in 1963, she became the first African-American to choreograph for the Met since Hemsley Winfield set the dances for The Emperor Jones in 1933.
    More Details Hide Details The critics acknowledged the historical research she did on dance in ancient Egypt but did not particularly care for the results they saw on the Met stage. Subsequently, Dunham undertook various choreographic commissions at several venues in the United States and in Europe. In 1967 she officially retired after presenting a final show at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Even in retirement Dunham continued to choreograph: one of her major works was directing Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha in 1972 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. In 1978 Dunham was featured in the PBS special, Divine Drumbeats: Katherine Dunham and Her People, narrated by James Earl Jones, as part of the Dance in America series. Alvin Ailey later produced a tribute for her in 1987-88 with his American Dance Theater at Carnegie Hall entitled The Magic of Katherine Dunham. In 1945, Dunham opened and directed the Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre near Times Square in New York City after her dance company was provided with rent-free studio space for three years by an admirer, Lee Shubert; it had an initial enrollment of 350 students.
  • 1962
    Age 52
    Dunham's last appearance on Broadway was in 1962 in Bamboche!, which included a few former Dunham dancers in the cast and a contingent of dancers and drummers from the Royal Troupe of Morocco.
    More Details Hide Details It was not a success, closing after only eight performances.
  • 1960
    Age 50
    The Dunham company's international tours ended in Vienna in 1960, when it was stranded without money because of bad management by their impresario.
    More Details Hide Details Dunham saved the day by arranging for the company to appear in a German television special, Karibische Rhythmen, after which they returned to America.
  • FORTIES
  • 1950
    Age 40
    In 1950, Sol Hurok presented Katherine Dunham and Her Company in a dance revue at the Broadway Theater in New York, with a program composed of some of Dunham's best works.
    More Details Hide Details It closed after only 38 performances, and the company soon thereafter embarked on a tour of venues in South America, Europe, and North Africa. They had particular success in Denmark and France. In the mid-1950s, Dunham and her company appeared in three films: Mambo (1954), made in Italy; Die Grosse Starparade (1954), made in Germany; and Música en la Noche (1955), made in Mexico City.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1949
    Age 39
    Katherine Dunham and John Pratt married in 1949 to adopt Marie-Christine, a French 14-month-old baby.
    More Details Hide Details From the beginning of their association, around 1938, Pratt designed the sets and every costume Dunham ever wore.
    She also became friends with, among others, Dumarsais Estimé, then a high-level politician, who became president of Haiti in 1949.
    More Details Hide Details Somewhat later, she assisted him, at considerable risk to her life, when he was persecuted for his progressive policies and sent in exile to Jamaica after a coup d'état. Dunham returned to Chicago in the late spring of 1936, and in August was awarded a bachelor's degree, a Ph.B., bachelor of philosophy, with her principal area of study named as social anthropology. She was one of the first African American women to attend this college and also to earn these degrees. In 1938, using materials collected during her research tour of the Caribbean, Dunham submitted a thesis, "The Dances of Haiti: A Study of Their Material Aspect, Organization, Form, and Function," to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a master's degree, but she never completed her course work or took examinations to qualify for the degree. Devoted to dance performance, as well as to anthropological research, she realized that she had to choose between the two. Although she was offered another grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to pursue her academic studies, she chose dance, gave up her graduate studies, and departed for Broadway and Hollywood.
  • 1948
    Age 38
    In 1948, she opened A Caribbean Rhapsody first at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, then swept on to the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris.
    More Details Hide Details This was the beginning of more than 20 years of performing almost exclusively outside the United States. During these years, the Dunham company appeared in some 33 countries in Europe, North Africa, South America, Australia, and East Asia. Dunham continued to develop dozens of new productions during this period, and the company met with enthusiastic audiences wherever they went. Despite these successes, the company frequently ran into periods of financial difficulties, as Dunham was required to support all of the 30 to 40 dancers and musicians. Dunham and her company appeared in the Hollywood movie Casbah (1948) with Tony Martin, Yvonne De Carlo, and Peter Lorre, and in the Italian film Botta e Risposta, produced by Dino de Laurentiis. Also that year they appeared in the first ever hour-long American spectacular televised by NBC when television was first beginning to spread across America. This was followed by television spectaculars filmed in London, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Sydney, and Mexico City.
  • 1947
    Age 37
    The program included courses in dance, drama, performing arts, applied skills, humanities, cultural studies, and Caribbean research, and in 1947 it was expanded and granted a charter as the Katherine Dunham School of Cultural Arts.
    More Details Hide Details The school was managed in Dunham's absence by one of her dancers, Syvilla Fort, thrived for about ten years, and was considered one of the best learning centers of its type at the time. Schools inspired by it later opened in Stockholm, Paris, and Rome by dancers trained by Dunham. Her alumni included many future celebrities, such as Eartha Kitt, who, as a teenager, won a scholarship to her school and later became one of her dancers before moving on to a successful singing career. Others who attended her school included James Dean, Gregory Peck, Jose Ferrer, Jennifer Jones, Shelley Winters, Sidney Poitier, Shirley MacLaine, Doris Duke, Toni Cade Bambara and Warren Beatty. Marlon Brando frequently dropped in to play the bongo drums, and jazz musician Charles Mingus held regular jam sessions with the drummers. Known for her many innovations, Dunham developed a dance pedagogy, later named the Dunham Technique, that won international acclaim and that is now taught as a modern dance style in many dance schools.
    Early in 1947 Dunham choreographed the musical play Windy City, which premiered at the Great Northern Theater in Chicago, and later in the year she opened a cabaret show in Las Vegas, during the first year that the city became a popular entertainment destination.
    More Details Hide Details Later that year she went with her troupe to Mexico, where their performances were so popular that they remained for more than two months. After Mexico, Dunham began touring in Europe, where she was an immediate sensation.
  • 1946
    Age 36
    In 1946, Dunham returned to Broadway for a revue entitled Bal Nègre, which received glowing notices from theater and dance critics.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1945
    Age 35
    After the tour, in 1945, the Dunham company appeared in the short-lived Blue Holiday at the Belasco Theater in New York and in the more successful Carib Song at the Adelphi Theatre.
    More Details Hide Details The finale to the first act of this show was Shango, a staged interpretation of a Vodun ritual that would become a permanent part of the company's repertory.
  • 1943
    Age 33
    The company returned to New York, and in September 1943, under the management of the renowned impresario Sol Hurok, her troupe opened in Tropical Review at the Martin Beck Theater.
    More Details Hide Details Featuring lively Latin American and Caribbean dances, plantation dances, and American social dances, the show was an immediate success. The original two-week engagement was extended by popular demand into a three-month run, after which the company embarked on an extensive tour of the United States and Canada. In Boston, the bastion of conservatism, the show was banned in 1944 after only one performance. Although it was well received by the audience, local censors feared that the revealing costumes and provocative dances might compromise public morals.
  • 1941
    Age 31
    In the summer of 1941, after the national tour of Cabin in the Sky ended, they went to Mexico, where inter-racial marriages were less controversial than in the United States, and engaged in a commitment ceremony on 20 July, which thereafter they gave as the date of their wedding.
    More Details Hide Details In fact, that ceremony was not recognized as a legal marriage in the United States, a point of law that would come to trouble them some years later.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1939
    Age 29
    In 1939, Dunham's company gave further performances in Chicago and Cincinnati and then went back to New York, where Dunham had been invited to stage a new number for the popular, long-running musical revue Pins and Needles 1940, produced by the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union.
    More Details Hide Details As this show continued its run at the Windsor Theater, Dunham booked her own company in the theater for a Sunday performance. This concert, billed as Tropics and Le Hot Jazz, included not only her favorite partners Archie Savage and Talley Beatty but her principal Haitian drummer, Papa Augustin. Initially scheduled for a single performance, the show was so popular that the troupe repeated it for another ten Sundays. This success led to the entire company being engaged in the Broadway production Cabin in the Sky, staged by George Balanchine and starring Ethel Waters. With Dunham in the sultry role of temptress Georgia Brown, the show ran for 20 weeks in New York before moving to the West Coast for an extended run of performances there. The show created a minor controversy in the press. After the national tour of Cabin in the Sky, the Dunham company stayed in Los Angeles, where they appeared in the Warner Brothers short film Carnival of Rhythm (1941). The next year Dunham appeared in the Paramount musical film Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) in a specialty number, "Sharp as a Tack," with Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. Other movies she appeared in during this period included the Abbott and Costello comedy Pardon My Sarong (1942) and the black film musical Stormy Weather (1943).
  • 1938
    Age 28
    At this time Dunham first became associated with designer John Pratt, whom she later married. Together, they produced the first version of her dance composition L'Ag'Ya, which premiered on January 27, 1938, as a part of the Federal Theater Project in Chicago.
    More Details Hide Details Based on her research in Martinique, this three-part performance integrated elements of a Martinique fighting dance into American ballet.
  • 1937
    Age 27
    Having completed her undergraduate work at the University of Chicago and having made the decision to pursue a career as a dancer and choreographer rather than as an academic, Dunham revived her dance ensemble and in 1937 journeyed with them to New York to take part in A Negro Dance Evening organized by Edna Guy at the 92nd Street YMHA.
    More Details Hide Details The troupe performed a suite of West Indian dances in the first half of the program and a ballet entitled Tropic Death, with Talley Beatty, in the second half. Upon returning to Chicago, the company performed at the Goodman Theater and at the Abraham Lincoln Center. Dunham's well-known works Rara Tonga and Woman with a Cigar were created at this time. With choreography characterized by exotic sexuality, both became signature works in the Dunham repertory. After successful performances of her company, Dunham was named dance director of the Chicago Negro Theater Unit of the Federal Theatre Project. In this post, she choreographed the Chicago production of Run Li'l Chil'lun, performed at the Goodman Theater, and produced several other works of choreography including The Emperor Jones and Barrelhouse.
  • 1934
    Age 24
    In 1934–36, Dunham performed as a guest artist with the ballet company of the Chicago Opera.
    More Details Hide Details Ruth Page had written a scenario and choreographed La Guiablesse ("The Devil Woman"), based on a Martinican folk tale in Lafcadio Hearn's Two Years in the French West Indies. It opened in Chicago in 1933, with a black cast and with Page dancing the title role. The next year it was repeated with Katherine Dunham in the lead and with students from Dunham's Negro Dance Group in the ensemble. Her dance career was then interrupted by her anthropological research in the Caribbean.
  • 1933
    Age 23
    Encouraged by Speranzeva to focus on modern dance instead of ballet, Dunham opened her first real dance school in 1933 called the Negro Dance Group.
    More Details Hide Details It was a venue for Dunham to teach young black dancers about their African heritage.
  • 1931
    Age 21
    Dunham married Jordis McCoo, a black postal worker, in 1931, but he did not share her interests and they gradually drifted apart, finally divorcing in 1938.
    More Details Hide Details About that time Dunham met and began to work with John Thomas Pratt, a Canadian who had become one of America's most renowned costume and theatrical set designers. Pratt, who was white, shared Dunham's interests in African-Caribbean cultures and was happy to put his talents in her service. After he became her artistic collaborator, they became romantically involved.
    In 1931, when she was only 21, Dunham formed a group called Ballets Nègres, one of the first black ballet companies in the United States.
    More Details Hide Details After a single, well-received performance in 1931, the group was disbanded.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1928
    Age 18
    In 1928, while still an undergraduate, Dunham began to study ballet with Ludmilla Speranzeva, a Russian dancer who had settled in Chicago, having come to the United States with the Franco-Russian vaudeville troupe Le Théâtre de la Chauve-Souris directed by impresario Nikita Balieff.
    More Details Hide Details She also studied ballet with Mark Turbyfill and Ruth Page, who became prima ballerina of the Chicago Opera. Through her ballet teachers, she was also exposed to Spanish, East Indian, Javanese, and Balinese dance forms.
  • 1921
    Age 11
    Dunham became interested in both writing and dance at a young age. In 1921, a short story she wrote when she was 12 years old called "Come Back to Arizona" appeared in volume 2 of The Brownies' Book.
    More Details Hide Details In high school she joined the Terpsichorean Club and began to learn a kind of modern dance based on the ideas of Jaques-Dalcroze and Rudolf von Laban. At a young age, Dunham organized a cabaret party to raise money for her church in which she starred in. At the age of 15, she organized the Blue Moon Café, a fundraising cabaret for Brown's Methodist Church in Joliet, where she gave her first public performance. While still a high school student, she opened a private dance school for young black children. After completing her studies at Joliet Junior College, Dunham moved to Chicago to join her brother Albert, who was attending the University of Chicago as a student of philosophy. In a lecture by Robert Redfield, a professor of anthropology, she learned that much of black culture in modern America had begun in Africa. She consequently decided to major in anthropology and to focus on dances of the African diaspora. Besides Redfield, she studied under anthropologists such as A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Edward Sapir, and Bronisław Malinowski. Under their tutelage, she showed great promise in her ethnographic studies of dance.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1909
    Born
    Katherine Mary Dunham was born on June 22, 1909 in a Chicago hospital and taken as an infant to her parents' home in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a village about 25 miles west of Chicago.
    More Details Hide Details Her father, Albert Millard Dunham, was a descendant of slaves from West Africa and Madagascar. Her mother, Fanny June Dunham (née Taylor), who was of mixed French-Canadian and Native American heritage, died when Dunham was three years old. She had an older brother, Albert Jr., with whom she had a close relationship. After her father's remarriage a few years later, the family moved to a predominantly white neighborhood in Joliet, Illinois, where her father ran a dry cleaning business.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
All data offered is derived from public sources. Spokeo does not verify or evaluate each piece of data, and makes no warranties or guarantees about any of the information offered. Spokeo does not possess or have access to secure or private financial information. Spokeo is not a consumer reporting agency and does not offer consumer reports. None of the information offered by Spokeo is to be considered for purposes of determining any entity or person's eligibility for credit, insurance, employment, housing, or for any other purposes covered under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)