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GRANT MONEY GOES TO PERPETUATE KATHERINE DUNHAM'S WORK.

Many people are not lucky enough to be alive when the public acknowledges their worth. At 91, dance legend Katherine Dunham (see "Katherine Dunham: A One-Woman Revolution," Dance Magazine, August 2000, page 42) is not one of those. Her many accolades include a Dance Magazine Award and Kennedy Center honors. But until now, Dunham's awards haven't translated into financial support--a reality that's kept Dunham, and those who work with her, scrambling to stay afloat. In the latest tribute, however, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has given the Library of Congress $1 million to purchase and preserve the dancer/choreographer's archives. In addition, Illinois has set aside a matching $1 million to make sure Dunham's legacy remains alive in her home state.

The state legislature, led by Representative Wyvetter Younge, found money in its budget to cover the amount. "Katherine Dunham's legacy is something Illinois is behind," says Younge. "And we are anxious to see that it remains headquartered in East St. Louis, Illinois, where the Katherine Dunham Center is located." The center, which offers children's dance classes, holds a two-week summer symposium with lectures and classes for adults, and houses a museum, is a cultural oasis in the impoverished city, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri.

Younge also hopes some of the state's $1 million will go toward reopening the Katherine Dunham school, which educated the likes of Harry Belafonte and Marlon Brando, and to revitalizing her company. Before state funds can be paid out, however, the Dunham Center must provide the state with detailed information on how much improvements and upkeep will cost. Putting together an itemized list isn't going to be easy for the skeleton crew of center volunteers who have their hands full just making sure the doors are open and the lights stay on.

The Doris Duke money should come through soon, but at press time Dunham and the center were still waiting while details were worked out. "As a federal agency, we have to proceed at a snail's pace," says Vicky Risner, project director and dance specialist at the Library of Congress, "but the deal is definitely a go." The library knows some funds will support this summer's Dunham symposium in East St. Louis. Beyond that, the grant is intended to preserve materials that document Dunham's life and work and to keep Dunham's work alive by expanding educational programs, particularly at the Dunham Center. Dunham herself will also receive some of the money, though she doesn't know how much.

The library's work will span a two-year period, with the first dedicated to collecting and transporting papers, photos, and copies of videos to the LOC. (Articles on display at the Dunham Center museum will remain in East St. Louis.) The second year will focus on documenting the technique and creating new material to fill in any voids.

The Katherine Dunham Legacy Project will add to a growing collection of dance archives at the Library of Congress. Among them are the Martha Graham Collection and the Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon Collection.
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Title Annotation:American dancer
Author:Samuels, Shayna
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:507
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