American dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham was a leader in African-American modern dance. She did a dance that was a mix of both cultures. She took classical American ballet and African rhythms and put them together to make an exciting new dance style. She lost her mother when she was young and went through a lot of hard times in her personal life before she went to college. She was interested in dance and writing from a young age, so she was thrilled to get a fellowship to spend 18 months studying the dances of the Caribbean Islands. When she got back, she finished school and then decided to go into dance as a career. She started a dance group and danced in Broadway musicals and movies, among other places. She also kept improving and teaching her methods so that the next generation of students could learn from her. She was also a social activist. All her life, she fought against racism and unfairness all over the world. She once didn’t put on a show when she found out that black people in the city weren’t allowed to buy tickets for the show. She was a pioneering visionary, and her legacy of lively dance, cultural acceptance, and social justice lives on.
Childhood and Adolescence
Albert Millard Dunham, a tailor, and dry cleaner, and his wife, Fanny June Dunham, had her on June 22, 1909, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, a small suburb of Chicago.
Her father was of African descent, descended from West African and Madagascar slaves, and her mother was of mixed French-Canadian and Native American ancestry. Her mother was 20 years her father’s senior.
Her mother has two children from her second marriage. Albert Jr. was her older brother, and Louise, Henry, and Fanny June Weir were her half-siblings. Katherine’s mother died when she was three years old, after a protracted illness.
She and her brother were transferred to live with her father’s sister, Lulu Dunham, in Chicago, when her mother died. Due to Lulu’s financial difficulties, the children were eventually given to her half-sister, Fanny June Weir, and her family.
Her father remarried Annette Poindexter, a schoolteacher when she was five, and the children moved home with them. Her stepmother was a wonderful woman, and the family used to own dry cleaning business. Annette decided to live with her mother after she left her father due to his aggressive conduct.
She attended Joliet Junior College in Illinois for her early education before enrolling at the University of Chicago. She was awarded a travel fellowship in 1935 to conduct anthropological research on Caribbean dance forms. She spent nearly 18 months traveling over the Caribbean, conducting the thorough study.
She graduated from the University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Instead of completing her research, she decided to pursue a profession in dance and choreography.
Katherine Dunham’s Career
She founded The Dunham Dancing Company, an all-black dance company, in 1940 and created the ‘Dunham technique,’ a completely new dance genre. It was a fusion of Caribbean ethnic dances, classical American ballet, and theatrical effects.
Her dance company appeared in numerous Broadway musicals, and she choreographed and appeared in numerous ballets, stage performances, and films, including ‘Pardon My Sarong’ (1942) and ‘Stormy Weather’ (1943). (1943).
In New York City, she founded the Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre in 1945. Dance, theater, performing arts, applied skills, humanities, cultural studies, and Caribbean research were all part of the curriculum.
When her troops were refused rooms in the first-class hotel in Brazil in 1950, she confronted racism. She made the incident public, which led to the passage of the ‘Afonso Arinos Law,’ which made racial discrimination in public places a felony in Brazil.
She also wrote a number of books, including ‘A Touch of Innocence: Memoirs of Childhood’ (1959), ‘Island Possessed’ (1969), and ‘Kasamance: A Fantasy’ (1970). (1974). She wrote essays regarding her anthropological research on occasion throughout her career.
She went on a 47-day hunger strike in 1992, at the age of 83, to protest the US government’s discrimination against Haitian boat people.
Achievements and Awards
The National Dance Association gave her the Heritage Award in 1971.
She received the Albert Schweitzer Music Award in 1979 “for a lifetime of work committed to music and to mankind.”
She received the Kennedy Center Honors, one of the highest creative honors in the United States, in 1983.
The American Anthropological Association honored her with the ‘Distinguished Service Award’ in 1986.
She received the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award in 1987.
She was honored with the National Medal of Arts in 1989.
The Dance Heritage Coalition named her one of the first one hundred “America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures” in 2000.
The Congress on Research in Dance honored her with the “Outstanding Leadership in Dance Research” award in 2005.
Personal History and Legacy
He married Jordis McCoo, a black postal worker, in 1931, but their relationship deteriorated over time owing to divergent interests, and they separated in 1938.
She married white Canadian John Thomas Pratt, who had been her creative collaborator since 1938, in 1941. They had a commitment ceremony in Mexico, where interracial partnerships were less controversial than in the United States, due to their racial differences.
They then ran into problems because their marriage was not recognized as legal in the United States. As a result, they married lawfully in a private ceremony in Las Vegas in 1949.
The couple did not have any children. They did, however, adopt a 14-month-old daughter they found in a Roman Catholic convent nursery in France as an infant. Marie-Christine Dunham Pratt is the name of their foster daughter.
She died quietly in her sleep in New York City on May 21, 2006, at the age of 96, from natural causes.
Estimated Net worth
Katherine is one of the most popular and richest dancers. Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider all say that Katherine Dunham has a net worth of about $1.5 million.