Katherine Dunham: Modern Dance Women

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Katherine Dunham was an important figure in pushing for equality among all races. She became remembered through her unique twist she put on her ballet movements. Instead of pursuing traditional ballet, she choreographed ballets that incorporated African-American movements. Because of this, she has always been referred to as one of the “modern dance pioneers” (Cass 303). Even through struggles, she continued to strive to focus more on the dance traditions of other cultures and slowly help work towards the end of oppression towards particular races. Firstly, she began her career in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Her talent did not take long to get noticed, and it helped Dunham to make a name for herself. In 1933, when she was only 34 years of age, she was a star performer in Ruth Page’s La Guiablesse. At the same time, she a student at the University of Chicago (“Katherine Dunham”). By 1938, she had undertaken field studies…show more content…
In the year of 1940, she created an all black dance company, known as “Ballet Nègre.” This dance company quickly began touring around 1943. This was unusual at the time, because the time period that she was popular in was when African Americans were discriminated against. However, since she was a very popular entertainer, she used this to show that she had a very serious intent on tracing the origin of black culture (“Katherine Dunham”). Ironically, during the time Dunham was doing the work she is most known for, modern dancers and political liberals did not know exactly how to react. They made sure not to refer to the people on her company as Black, Italian, Jewish, Irish, or any other race. This is because they were afraid of being deemed as being racist if they labeled her dancers by their ethnicity or

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