Pass The Torch: Katherine Dunham
Dance Pioneer and human rights champion Katherine Dunham is presented in conversation with former Dunham dancer, Julie Belafonte. Katherine Dunham was a national treasure. (She passed away in May of 2006, one month short of her 97th birthday.)
horeographer, dancer, actress, writer, producer, educator, scholar, and activist, Chicago native Katherine Dunham is a living legend and national treasure. For over 60 years, Dunham's distinguished career has been marked by her pioneering work in every aspect of theatrical dance, music, and education. She danced with the first black dance company in the U.S.; choreographed and performed in over a dozen major Hollywood films; founded the acclaimed Katherine Dunham Dance Company, which toured over 60 countries; authored eight books; and served as cultural adviser to the President and Minister of Cultural Affairs of Senegal. Throughout the years, Dunham has remained dedicated to the struggle for human rights and racial equality. In the 1970s, she developed cultural programs for disadvantaged youth in East St. Louis, founding the Performing Arts Training Center and the Katherine Dunham Museum and Children's School. In the early 1990s, Dunham went on a 47-day hunger strike against U.S. policies toward Haiti. She is the recipient of ten honorary doctorates from the nation's most prestigious universities, and has received countless honors, including the Kennedy Center Honors; the President's National Medal of the Arts; the Grande Croix of the Haitian Legion of Honor and Merit; and induction into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Dunham is presently artistic director for the Katherine Dunham Center for the Arts and Humanities in East St. Louis, dividing her time between the programs of the Center and her own projects in Haiti.
PASS THE TORCH is proud to present Katherine Dunham, living legend and national treasure, in conversation with Julie Belafonte, social activist and former Dunham dancer. Dunham reflects on her experiences as a choreographer and dancer and how her work has contributed to the human rights struggle over the past 70 years.
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Katherine Dunham Productions and Performances (1931-1980)
Negro Rhapsody, choreographer, performer; Chicago Beaux Arts Ball, 1931.
La Guiablesse, performer; Chicago Civic Opera, 1934; also other guest appearances, 1933-1936.
Chicago World's Fair, choreographer, performer, 1934.
Concert, Rex Theatre, Port-au-Prince, 1937.
Primitive Rhythms, choreographer, performer; Goodman Theater, Chicago, 1937.
Haitian Suite, choreographer, performer; Abraham Lincoln Center, Chicago, 1937.
Run Lil Chillun, choreographer; Goodman Theater, Chicago, 1938.
L'Ag'Ya, choreographer; Chicago, 1938.
Pins and Needles, choreographer; New York Labor Stage, 1939.
Tropics and le Jazz Hot, choreographer, performer; Windsor Theater, New York, 1939.
Cabin in the Sky, choreographer (with George Balanchine), performer; New York and tour throughout U.S., 1940-1941.
Tropical Review, choreographer, performer; Martin Beck Theater, New York, and tour, 1943-1944. (Included Rites de Passage)
Shango, choreographer, performer; 1945.
Carib Song, choreographer, performer; 54th Street Theater, New York, 1945.
Windy City, choreographer, performer; Great Northern Theater, Chicago, 1947.
Bal Negre, choreographer, performer; Belasco Theater, New York, and tour throughout U.S., 1946; Mexico, 1947; Transcontinental, 1948.
Southland, choreographer, performer; Chile, Paris, 1951.
Caribbean Rhapsody, choreographer, performer; tour in London, Paris, Europe, 1948-1949; South America, 1950-1951; Europe, North Africa, 1952-1953; United States, Mexico, 1953; Germany, Europe, 1954; South America, 1954-1955; Mexico, 1955; Greek Theater (Los Angeles), Broadway, 1955-1956; Australia, New Zealand, 1956-1957; Far East, 1958; Europe, Near East, Argentina, 1959-1960.
Bamboche, choreographer, performer; U.S. tour, 1962, New York, 1963.
Carnival of Rhythm, choreography, performance; Warner Brothers, 1941.
Star Spangled Rhythm, choreography, performance; Paramount Pictures, 1942.
Pardon My Sarong, choreography; Universal Pictures, 1942.
Stormy Weather, choreography, performance; Twentieth Century Fox, 1943.
Casbah, choreography, performance; Universal Pictures, 1948.
Botta e Risposta, choreography, performance; Teatri della Farnesina, Italy, 1949.
Mambo, choreography, performance (includes classroom demonstration of Dunham technique); Paramount Pictures, Italy, 1954.
Liebes Sender, choreography, performance; producer unknown, Germany, 1954.
Musica en la Noche, choreography, performance; Alianza Cinematografica, Mexico, 1955.
Green Mansions, choreography; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1959.
The Bible, choreography, staging; Dino de Laurentiis, Twentieth Century Fox and Seven Arts, 1964.
Free To Dance, choreography, performance; Documentary, Pan African Film & Arts Festival, 2000.
First hour-long American Spectacular, NBC, 1939.
Spectaculars, BBC, London, 1952.
Spectaculars, National Television, Paris, 1952-1953.
Esso World Theater, New York, 1954.
Spectacular, Buenos Aires, 1955.
Spectacular, CBC, Toronto, 1956.
Debut of Australian television, Sydney, 1957.
Karaibishe Rhythmen, choreography, performance; produced for television by WDR Fernsehen, Koln Germany, 1960.
Performance of Dunham student dancers in Wolftrap Park, PBS, 1976.
Divine Drumbeats, choreography, performance by Dunham dancers; WNET Television, New York, 1980.
Tropical Pinafore, Chicago, 1939.
Pins and Needles, New York, 1939.
I Hear America Singing, New York, 1939.
Les Deux Anges, Paris, 1965.
Ciao, Rudi, Rome, 1965.
San Remo Festival, New York, 1966.
Ballet National Senegal, Dakar Senegal, 1966-1967.
Dream Deferred, Southern Illinois University, East St. Louis, 1968.
Ode to Taylor Jones, Southern Illinois University, East St. Louis, 1968.
Black Arts Festival, Rockhurst College, Kansas City, 1969.
Psychedelia, South American Suite, Drums of Kasamance (and others), choreography and direction; tour throughout midwest and in east, 1970.
Aida, Metropolitan Opera, New York, 1964.
Faust, Southern Illinois University--Carbondale, 1965.
Treemonisha, Atlanta, 1972; Wolftrap Park, Vienna Virginia, 1972; Southern Illinois University--Carbondale, 1972.
Books Written BY Katherine Dunham:
Kasamance: A Fantasy (Okpaku Communications Corp., 1974)
Dances of Haiti (Center for Afro-American Studies, 1983)
Black Dance: From 1619 to Today with Lynne Fauley Emery (Princeton Book Co. Publishing, 1991)
A Touch of Innocence (University of Chicago Press, 1994)
Island Possessed (University of Chicago Press, 1994)
Katherine Dunham's Journey to Accompong (Reprint Services Corporation, 1995)
Books Written ABOUT Katherine Dunham:
Katherine Dunham - Haiti to Harlem by Barbara O'Connor (The Lerner Group, 2000)
Dunham Technique: "A Way of Life" by Albirda Rose (Kendall/Hunt, 1990)
Katherine Dunham: Reflections on the Social and Political Contexts of Afro-American Dance by Joyce Aschenbrenner (Congress on Research in Dance, 1981)
Katherine Dunham: A Biography by Ruth Beckford (Marcel Dekker, 1979)
Dance: The Story of Katherine Dunham by Ruth Biemiller (Doubleday, 1969)
Kaiso! Katherine Dunham: An Anthology of Writings ed. by VeVe A. Clark and Margaret B. Wilkerson (Institute for the Study of Social Change, 1978)
"Katherine Dunham's Southland: Protest in the Face of Repression" by Constance Valis Hill Dance Research Journal 26, no. 2 (Fall 1994): 1-10.