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Katherine Dunham (1909-2006).

A towering figure in modern dance and a pioneer in "ethnic" or world dance, Katherine Dunham died in Manhattan last May at 96. An author, anthropologist, and activist as well as a dance artist, Miss Dunham was the first to bring African-derived forms to modern dance, and the first black dancer to choreograph for the Metropolitan Opera. She worked with Balanchine on the Broadway musical Cabin in the Sky and appeared in the Hollywood movie Stormy Weather. She traveled with her fabulously popular troupe to 57 countries--before there was any federal subsidy. She inspired countless dancers including the young Alvin Alley, who was enraptured by her.

Dunham grew up in a poor household near Chicago. As a teenager she studied ballet, and as a college student she traveled to the Caribbean to research indigenous dances. She merged African-based forms and modern dance into a new technique. Her dances were both entertaining and educational, and her school in Manhattan offered classes in Dunham technique and Haitian dance as well as Japanese tea ceremony, African drumming, and foreign languages. Students included Arthur Mitchell, Donald Saddler, Eartha Kilt, Marlon Brando, and James Dean.

In Dance Magazine's August 2000 cover story on Dunham, Glory Van Scott recalled her time with the company in 1959 and 1960: "Everywhere we went, audiences went crazy. In Paris, we'd do our show, and then we'd go dancing half the night at the Samba Club. The audience loved us so much, they would follow us there."

Dunham created a dance about lynching called Southland (1951). In 1967 she moved to East St. Louis and brought art to inner-city neighborhoods. She established an art center there, and a street is named after her. Kaisol, a book by and about her, was recently published ("Dance Magazine Recommends," May). See www.dancemagazine.com for complete obituary.
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Title Annotation:DEATHS
Author:Perron, Wendy
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
Words:304
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