Schomburg Research Guide: Katherine Dunham
by Alexsandra Mitchell, Reference Librarian and Archivist, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black CultureFebruary 15, 2017
"That I would come into their midst, able to worship these gods in dance, and knowing, ...seemed to be of utmost importance to the cult itself—as it was important that I carry the meaning of the true vaudun to my people in that other country." —Katherine Dunham, Island Possessed
This research guide features collection materials related to black dance pioneer, anthropologist, and choreographer, Katherine Dunham. Dunham traversed locales such as Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, and Martinique, utilizing her formal training in anthropology with scholars such as Melville J. Herskovits, to research traditional spiritual practices and rituals, and implemented learned aspects into her choreography with the her first dance company, Ballet Nègre, and later, The Dunham School of Dance and Theater, with a special emphasis on the “Dunham Technique”. Her dance companies provided opportunities for black dancers and choreographers such as, Lavinia Williams, Jean-Léon Destiné, and Arthur Mitchell. Her groundbreaking work has been the topic of critical scholarship within and outside of her respective fields, various artistic reproductions, and greatly inspired the work of her peers. Years later, her work continues to inspire contemporary generations of dancers, choreographers, and anthropologists.
Please review the materials listed, and contact the specific divisions listed for more information regarding access to the materials.
Note: this guide is not all inclusive. Please view our catalog and/or Archives Portal to find additional materials related to Katherine Dunham.