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28501: (news) Chamberlain: Remembering Dunham (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By JIM SUHR
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill., June 22 (AP) -- With the rhythmic beat of large
drums and flowing dance routines, this destitute city Katherine Dunham
adopted and called home for three decades paid tribute to the late dance
and choreographer on what would have been her 97th birthday.
A month after Dunham's death, admirers of the woman best known for
melding movements from traditional African and Caribbean dance gathered
Thursday in the gym of an elementary school once attended by jazz legend
Miles Davis and track great Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
The three-hour event was to include testimonials about Dunham from
dignitaries and some of her protDegDes, along with readings of
proclamations and telegrams that flooded in from around the globe after her
May 21 death in New York City.
Before the celebration, Dunham's daughter, Marie-Christine Dunham-Pratt,
lamented that many Europeans and Americans, including many blacks, had
forgotten about her mother or her place in history.
"I hope she will now be remembered," Dunham-Pratt said, holding back
tears. "When you're gone, maybe people will wake up more."
Dunham, who also was an anthropologist, author and civil rights
activist, made her name in dance, pioneering what became known as the
"Dunham Technique," which combined Caribbean and African dance styles.
Dunham described it as "about movement, forms, love, hate, death, life, all
In the late 1930s, she established the nation's first self-supporting
all-black modern dance group.
"We weren't pushing `Black Is Beautiful,' we just showed it," she later
Her dance company toured internationally from the 1940s to the 1960s,
visiting nearly five dozen nations on six continents. Her success was won
in the face of widespread discrimination, a struggle Dunham -- a daughter
of ethnically mixed parents -- fought by refusing to perform at segregated
At times, the civil rights activist insisted on staying in "white"
hotels. She staged a 47-day hunger strike in 1992 to protest U.S. policy in
Along the way, she choreographed "Aida" for the Metropolitan Opera and
musicals such as "Cabin in the Sky" for Broadway. She also appeared in
several films, including "Stormy Weather" and "Carnival of Rhythm."
After 1967, she lived most of each year in largely black East St. Louis,
where she struggled to bring the arts to a Mississippi River city of
burned-out buildings and high crime.
On the Net:
Katherine Dunham Fund, http://www.kdunhamfund.com