Essay on Katherine Dunham: a Woman of Many Wonders
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Katherine Dunham was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 22, 1909 as the youngest child of Albert Millard Dunham and Fanny June (Guillaume), with an older brother, Albert Jr., as well as children from her mother’s first marriage. Her heritage included Indian, French Canadian, English, Malagasy (Madagascan) and African ancestry (Aschenbrenner 7). Dunham’s mother passed away when Katherine was only four and their father left the children with their aunt Lulu, where Katherine faced multiple instances of prejudice as African Americans were flooding North at this time (Aschenbrenner 8). These early experiences of prejudice and as a go between in her aunt Lulu’s custody battle for Dunham and her brother played a large role her approach between…show more content…
Influenced primarily by cultural roots and incredibly opportunity, Dunham had the luxury of studying in the West Indies as well as anthropological study of other cultural style dances. The West Indian experience changed forever the focus of Dunham’s life and caused a profound shift in her career. This initial fieldwork began a lifelong involvement with the people and dance of Haiti. And, importantly for the development of modern dance, her fieldwork began her investigations into a vocabulary of movement that would form the core of the Katherine Dunham Technique. Though many of Dunham’s primary influences lies within her multicultural experiences, Mark Turbyfill also seemed to play a large role in her future dance career, giving her private lessons despite his doubt in the opening of her student company (Kaiso! 187). Katherine Dunham has been list as an influence to “everyone from George Balanchine to Jerome Robbins, Alvin Ailey, Bob Fosse and Twyla Tharp. American dance, including ballet, modern dance, Hollywood and Broadway, would not be the same without her” (Aschenbrenner 226).
Her student dance company was founded in 1931, “Ballet Negre” and awarded a Rosenwald Travel Fellowship in 1936 for her combined expertise in dance and anthropology. While studying with Ludmilla Speranzeva and Mark