Women’s History Month: Katherine Dunham!


Dunham was a dancer, but also a choreographer, and I think I want to give some concert dance choreographers of the 1920s, 30s and 40s and 50s a bit of space as well.
Dunham’s piece ‘Barrelhouse Blues’ is really interesting. I think it gives me a place to start thinking about ‘blues dancing’ performances in historical context – this piece was a response to (and incorporates) the vernacular dance of the period, rather than an ‘accurate’ ‘depiction’ of vernacular dance.
It’s the second piece in this clip, but I want to include the first piece ‘Ostrich’ because it’s so amazing, and really positions Dunham within the context of other choreographers and dancers of this period who were exploring African dance within an African American context. Also, because ‘Ostrich’ is AMAZING.


Here’s a documentary about ‘Barrelhouse Blues’ which discusses Dunham’s work in a bit of details, plus has some footage from a 30s performance of the piece:


And here are some Life Magazine photos of Dunham, just because.

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