November 5, 2004 Dancer-Choreographer Katherine Dunham Subject of New Web Presentation
Presentation is Part of I Hear America Singing Web Site
Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
The Music Division of the Library of Congress has released a new Web collection focusing on the career of dancer-choreographer Katherine Dunham. The presentation is available from the I Hear America Singing Web site.
This online presentation makes available a selection of photographs from the Library of Congress, the Missouri Historical Society and Southern Illinois University; film and videotape excerpts from Dunham's research and performing career; and selections from the Library's Dunham Legacy Project, which documented her dance technique. In addition, a complete inventory of the collection is included.
The release of the Web collection coincides with the 2004 Visionary Awards and Intergenerational Summit on the State of Black America. Ms. Dunham was an honoree during this Oct. 16 event, and the award presentation was jointly sponsored by the Library's American Folklife Center and the National Visionary Leadership Project.
The Katherine Dunham Collection was assembled at the Library of Congress through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The financial support made possible the purchase of significant portions of Dunham's archives originally housed at the Dunham Centers in East St. Louis, Ill. With the acquisition of 1,694 items in a variety of moving image formats, the Library has become a major source of information on Dunham's legacy -- a legacy that encompasses choreographic works, technique and teaching, performance and production, anthropological analysis of the dance and ritual of the African diaspora, global activism and leadership in human rights, and advocacy in the local African American community.
Born in 1909 in Chicago, Katherine Dunham is best known for incorporating African-American, Caribbean, African and South American movement styles and themes into her ballets. As a young dancer and student at the University of Chicago, she chose anthropology as her course of study. The union of dance and anthropology would have a profound impact on her choreographic style throughout her career.
Awarded a Rosenwald Fund Fellowship to study the dance forms of the Caribbean, Dunham conducted extensive fieldwork throughout the West Indies during the 1930s. Her experience yielded significant contributions to the discipline of dance anthropology and inspired her to develop the first African-American concert dance technique.
In addition to a career that has included Broadway performances, feature films, choreography and national and international tours, she established the Katherine Dunham School of Arts and Research. In 1983 she was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 2000 she was named one of "America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures" by the Dance Heritage Coalition.
I Hear America Singing is a new Library of Congress Web site that invites visitors to experience the diversity of American performing arts through the Library's unsurpassed collections of scores, sheet music, audio recordings, films, photographs, maps and other materials. Special presentations on selected topics highlight some of the unique and unusual materials in the Library's collections, including jazz legend Gerry Mulligan's collection, Civil War sheet music and patriotic melodies. This site is a continually growing resource, and visitors are encouraged to return regularly.