May 22, 2006

Katherine Dunham Dead At 96

I'm pretty shocked by this piss-poor obituary of Dunham in the Times. I'd expect at least three times as much space for such a pioneer:The NY Times has a much longer obit available. I guess they put the below online until writers polished off the longer version.

Katherine Dunham, a pioneering dancer and choreographer, author and civil rights activist who left Broadway to teach culture in one of America's poorest cities, has died. She was 96.


Dunham died Sunday at the Manhattan assisted living facility where she lived, said Charlotte Ottley, executive liaison for the organization that preserves her artistic estate. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Dunham was perhaps best known for bringing African and Caribbean influences to the European-dominated dance world. In the late 1930s, she established the nation's first self-supporting all-black modern dance group.

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.''

Her dance company toured internationally from the 1940s to the '60s, visiting 57 nations on six continents. Her success was won in the face of widespread discrimination, a struggle Dunham championed by refusing to perform at segregated theaters.

After 1967, Dunham lived most of each year in East St. Louis, Ill., where she struggled to bring the arts to a Mississippi River city of burned-out buildings and high crime.

I first heard of Dunham because of one fact: I adored Eartha Kitt, a former dancer for Dunham's dance company.

Posted by ronn at May 22, 2006 12:55 PM

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