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Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham in 1956
Personal information
Birth nameKatherine Mary Dunham
Birth dateJune 22, 1909
Place of birthGlen Ellyn, Illinois, USA
Date of deathMay 21, 2006(age 96)
Death placeNew York City, New York, USA
SpouseJordis W. McCoo (1931-1938)
John Pratt (1941-1986)

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Katherine Mary Dunham (June 22, 1909 May 21, 2006) was an American dancer, choreographer, songwriter, author, educator, and activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European theater of the 20th century and has been called the "Matriarch and Queen Mother of Black Dance".

During her heyday in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, she was renowned throughout Europe and Latin America as "that Black woman", and the Washington Post called her "Dance's Katherine the Great". For more than 30 years she maintained the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only permanent, self-financing American black dance troupe at that time, and over her long career she choreographed more than 90 individual dances. Dunham was an innovator in African-American modern dance as well as a leader in the field of Dance Anthropology, or Ethno choreology.

In 1992, at the age of 82, Katherine Dunham went on a highly publicized 47-day hunger strike to protest what she condemned as the discriminatory U.S. foreign policy against Haitian boat-people.

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