Dancer Tribute 1/11/12: Katherine Dunham (Glen Ellyn, IL)

Katherine1Dancer Tribute 1/11/12: Katherine Dunham (Glen Ellyn, IL)

An amazing dance pioneer!

Outstanding dancer, choreographer and innovator!

One of the all time dance great!

Katherine Dunham.

In 1945, she opened and directed the Katherine Dunham School of Dance and Theatre near Times Square in New York City after her Dance Company was provided with rent-free studio space for 3 years by an admirer, Lee Shubert; it had an initial enrollment of 350 students.

Her alumni included many future celebrities, such as Eartha Kitt, who, as a teenager, won a scholarship to her school and later became one of her dancers before moving on to a successful singing career. Others who attended her school included James Dean, Gregory Peck, Jose Ferrer, Jennifer Jones, Shelley Winters, Sidney Poitier, Shirley MacLaine, Doris Duke and Warren Beatty. Marlon Brando frequently dropped in to play the bongo drums, and jazz musician Charles Mingus held regular jam sessions with the drummers. Known for her many innovations, she developed a dance pedagogy named the Dunham Technique which won international acclaim and is now taught as a modern dance style in dance schools, including at the Harkness Dance Center of the 92nd Street Y.

One of my all time favorite movies is Stormy Weathers.  I love and admire many of the performers in it like Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway and Fats Waller (both appearing as themselves), the Nicholas Brothers dancing duo, comedy team Miller and Lyles, singer Ada Brown, and Katherine Dunham with her dance troupe.
For more dance gossip & goodies, check out my book, "Learn to Belly Dance Textbook" available at and Barnes & Noble: