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Flash Tribute 3, 5-26: Shattered
Dunham the Grand

By Nicholas Birns
Copyright 2006 Nicholas Birns

I think of Katherine Dunham as the Zora Neale Hurston of dance -- blessed with a much longer life and a more continuous acceptance and understanding from the culture, but similarly realizing the full potential of the African diaspora in artistic expression, braiding artistic practice and anthropological research, and renewing a long-dormant cultural dialogue between the Caribbean and the North American mainland. She was also one of the few dancer/choreographers that every literate person knew, that people who were not dance aficionados had as a shared reference point that brought them into some sort of achieved relation with dance as an art form.... Her commitment to East St. Louis is another extraordinary facet of her identity; she went there when that city was seen as totally down skid row. It just was an extraordinary life and, despite her great age, it is really a blow to have her gone.

 


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