"Souvenir Program For Katherine Dunham's Bal Negre" 1946
A Katherine Dunham Production
10 5/8" x 8 1/2"
A scarce, early souvenir-program for Katherine Dunham’s production of Bal Nègre, providing an overview of Dunham’s stunning career, oeuvre and her dance school.
African-American dancer, choreographer, anthropologist and activist Katherine Dunham (1909–2006) enjoyed one of the most successful dance careers of the 20th century. Featuring a captivating illustration of Dunham on the cover with a white dress billowing in the air and hands above her head, this program was published for Dunham’s production Bal Nègre, which opened at New York’s Belasco Theater in 1946 and played at the Geary Theater, San Francisco in 1948. Following Tropical Revue—“which scored a sensation the length and breadth of the U.S. and Canada”—Bal Nègre is here described as “the latest in a brilliant succession of theatrical productions conceived and directed by Miss Dunham.”
This program presents a glowing biographical sketch of Dunham, an overview of her works, and images of such performances as “Shore Excursion”; “Bahiana”; “Mexican Rhumba”; “Congo Paillette, a “corn-sorting ritual”; “Rites de Passage”; “The Cakewalk”; “Flaming Youth” and so on—many of these dances deriving from different cultures. Many images feature Dunham herself; in one she lies across a grand-piano while a pianist tickles the ivories. The section “Primitive Rhythms” spells out “a new dance vocabulary” that Dunham purveyed through her study of the dances of “primitive” cultures. One section entitled, “The Company Rehearses” features images of Dunham’s company in rehearsal and identifies the members of company’s three divisions: Company dance members, Sans Souci Singers, and Drummers. Featured as well is the company’s resident composer-conductor, Gilberto Valdes. The program concludes with an overview of the Dunham School of Dance and Theatre, which features several shots from Dunham’s drama, percussion, and “primitive technique” courses as well as classes for children.
Dubbed the “matriarch and queen mother of black dance,” Dunham won acclaim for her innovative interpretations of ritualistic and ethnic dances which she based on her research of black culture. At the apogee of her career during the 1940s and ‘50s, she achieved great success throughout Europe, Latin America and the U.S. with her own all-black Katherine Dunham Dance Co., which she directed for nearly three decades. The company constituted the sole self-supported black American dance troupe of its day. Over her long career, Dunham choreographed over ninety individual dances; made important contributions to the field of dance anthropology, and innovated African-American modern dance. She also choreographed and starred in dance sequences in various movies and was the recipient of numerous awards. Many of her students trained at her Chicago and New York studios went on to become notable figures in the field of modern dance.
WorldCat records 5 copies, two of which are held outside of the U.S.
A lovely souvenir-program for a Katherine Dunham performance, produced early in her remarkable career.
Katherine Mary Dunham (June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006) was an American dancer, choreographer, creator of the Dunham Technique, author, educator, anthropologist, and social activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in African-American and European theater of the 20th century, and directed her own dance company for many years. She has been called the "matriarch and queen mother of black dance."