Katherine Dunham: Pioneer of Black Dance

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Editorial Reviews

As a student in 1922, Katherine Dunham performed in dances and musicals as a member of the Terpsichorean Club at her high school in Illinois. She went on to study ballet with a famous Russian ballerina, opened her own dance school, and founded two dance companies, Ballet Négre and Negro Dance Group, to showcase the style and culture of black dance. A grant to travel to the Caribbean to study and learn the dances of the black West Indians was the source of inspiration and support that she needed to accomplish her goal. From 1935 to 1936, Dunham visited and collected dances from Jamaica, Martinique, Trinidad, and Haiti. The Haitian vodun (voodoo) dances and the beauty of the country captivated her so much that years later, she bought a home on the island. Upon returning to the United States, Dunham received her anthropology degree and continued touring with her dance company. Her work was so well received that she also choreographed dances for Broadway shows and Hollywood movies. As Dunham and her group performed around the world, Dunham endeavored to bring art and education to the less fortunate children and adults of East St. Louis. She also spoke out against injustices that were forced upon the Haitian people. O'Connor presents a thorough and detailed look at the life of this dancer/anthropologist, teacher, and activist. Dunham's early fascination with theater and dance is chronicled in easy-to-read language that is sometimes too folksy. For example, when the author states that Dunham got married, she uses the words "she up and married him." In spite of the occasional colloquialisms, this biography is a very valuable middle school research tool. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P M J(Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner, 104p, Index, Photos, Biblio.. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Brenda Moses-Allen VOYA, February 2001 (Vol. 23, No.6)
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
This is a compelling account of the life of one of the most influential dancers ever, Katherine Dunham. In spite of her mother's early death and her subsequently tumultuous childhood, Katherine Dunham's confidence enabled her to create an entirely new style of modern dance. Though she studied classical dance for some time, Katherine became inspired by a university lecture about African culture. What if she could integrate the elements of traditional African and Caribbean dance into modern dance? Katherine thought the results would be exciting. She was right. Barbara O'Connor provides an excellent, succinct account of a lengthy career as a dancer and choreographer. This "Trailblazer Biography" includes a chapter about the Katherine Dunham Centers for the Arts and Humanities. 2000, Carolrhoda, Ages 9 to 12, $23.93. Reviewer: Heidi Green—Children's Literature
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Drawing on Dunham's own autobiographical writings, O'Connor details the life and achievements of this noted African-American dancer, choreographer, and teacher. The author recounts the dancer's difficult family situation and the racism she faced growing up in Illinois. She also discusses Dunham's desire to understand the roots of African dance and the fieldwork she did in Haiti. The book concludes with mention of Dunham's fast at the age of 82 to protest the U.S. government's treatment of Haitians attempting to enter the country. Throughout the accessible text, the performer's contributions and struggles are clearly portrayed. Attractive black-and-white photographs appear on almost every page.-Janet Woodward, Garfield High School, Seattle, WA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781575053530
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Series: Trailblazers Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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