Katherine Dunham

Though not a classical ballerina in the strictest sense, Katherine Dunham was a wide-ranging and groundbreaking figure in the dance world. From the African American Registry:

Born in Chicago, Dunham received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in anthropology from the University of Chicago and later did extensive anthropological study, particularly in the Caribbean. She began performing in 1931 in Chicago and then worked for the New York Labor Stage, where she composed dances for “The Emperor Jones,” “Pins and Needles,” and “Run, Li’l Chillun.” In 1936, Dunham received a Julius Rosenwald Foundation fellowship, with which she traveled and studied dance in the West Indies, particularly in Haiti.

In 1940, she formed a highly acclaimed all-Black dance troupe that toured her works in the United States and in Europe. She also choreographed for, and performed in, motion pictures and Broadway musicals. Dunham opened the Dunham School of Dance in New York City, which trained dancers in classical ballet, African and Caribbean dance forms, anthropology, and other cultural arts. The school was an influential center of Black dance. She became the first Black choreographer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s