Courtesy DM Archives

#TBT: How Katherine Dunham's Marriage of Anthropology and Artistry Shaped Modern Dance

To call Katherine Dunham a trailblazer is something of an understatement. She was the first American to present indigenous dance on the concert stage, the force behind the first self-supporting Black dance company in the U.S., an unflinching proponent of racial equality and the creator of one of modern dance's foundational techniques.


Born June 22, 1909, the Chicago native gained as much fame for her evocative performances as for her anthropological research, traveling to the Caribbean to immerse herself in cultures where dance was not merely entertainment, but a way of life. She brought back video footage, photographs and densely packed notebooks full of her observations.

Courtesy DM Archives

In the May 1947 issue of Dance Magazine, Katherine Dunham said, "I am only interested in dance as an education, as a means of knowing peoples."

In the May 1947 issue of Dance Magazine, she recalled: "I seemed always to live this sort of dual existence of having my intellect absorbed in searching out and annotating the real and authentic steps and movements, and an eye trained to see all of this color and movement and drama translated into theater idiom; and my notebooks, too, abound in marginal notes for use of the 'real' material in the theater when I returned home, for I was more than ever determined to have a group of dancers who would be able to show the people of the United States what others have contributed to our culture."

Dunham received a Dance Magazine Award in 1969, was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1983 and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1989.

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Courtesy Bloch

The BLOCHspot + Alcyone Sneaker Are What Dancers Actually Need in 2021

Almost a year later and...yep, we're still in a global pandemic. As COVID-19 drags on, your pre-pandemic footwear is probably on its last legs by now (if it was ever up to dancing all day on floors that aren't sprung). And even when we do finally return to the stage, dancing in non-traditional spaces is a trend that's likely to stick around. Sporting a new pair of kicks designed specially for dancers might be just the boost you need to meet the dance world's "new normal" head-on.

Here, everything you need to know about the next-generation sneaker and handy spin spot that'll make this spring feel like the fresh start dancers deserve.

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February 2021