Due Unto Dunham

Extending the legacy of dance ancestor Katherine Dunham, 1909–2006

Dance Dunham and become physically prepared

Joan Peters, Dunham technique instructor, Ailey School: "I came to Dunham as a baby—about five years old—and I came up strong as an adult. Dunham technique makes you so strong, you can do any type of work you want to do. But her [stage] works need to be done again, and we've got to keep her technique going, to carry it on."

If social movements begin as physical movements, we must dance Dunham to give her her due: striving toward her example of an engaged life, richly lived, in the service of sharing knowledge among people. She never stopped moving; neither should we.

Getting to Know Her

Shout "kaiso" and you call "bravo" to a career of unmitigated achievement. It doesn't get better than a volume of writings by and about Katherine Dunham, and Kaiso! (Studies in Dance History/University of Wisconsin Press, 2005, 698pp. $24.95) stands as a remarkable testament to her life's work. Begin with Dunham and then applaud co-editors VéVé A. Clark and Sara E. Johnson for producing this essential resource. They built on the mimeographed copies previously prized by those in the family, augmenting them with recent scholarly articles and sections of Miss D.'s unpublished memoir, Minefields. Its riches overwhelm, so take your time; linger over Dunham's 1963 assessments of "The Caribbean Islands Now and Then"; laugh aloud reading "The Anthropological Approach to the Dance" (1942) as she explains her early experiments in combining dance studies and academic theory; drool at the possibilities for study at the Katherine Dunham School of Arts and Research, whose 1946–1947 brochure lists faculty including Marie Bryant (tap), Todd Bolender (ballet), Syvilla Fort (Dunham technique), José Limón (modern), and John Pratt (visual design) alongside offerings in languages, philosophy, cultural studies, and "deportment." At last month's "Boule Blanche," a party cum book launch organized by Dunham dancer Glory Van Scott and featuring performances by Charles Moore Dance Theatre, Dunham was radiant, surrounded by celebrants festooned in white. She reported feeling "relieved and released" that the volume exists. So should we all. T.F.D.

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