4 // Black Future Month // The Dunham Technics

Posted on February 4, 2012

It’s Saturday evening, and you’re ready to hit the club, aren’t you? Stop lying. You’ve got your hair all coiffed, your nails all did, and you’re sitting in your room watching Youtube videos at full MacBook volume as pregame. Am I right?

Okay, fine. Maybe you’re like me, and your club days are dwindling. Perhaps you spend your weekends… I dunno, blogging, taking in sophisticated art gallery openings, tackling chunks of your thesis or dissertation, and skyping with potential funders?

Or perhaps you toggle the line in between, cross fading between intellectual pursuits and physical.

Either way, you recall the last time you danced. The DJ had turntables and command of a crowd that longed to move. Did you watch the parquet? Did you consider the crowd? Did your mind start wheeling on the migratory patterns of movement, or did your eye simply dart to that one woman, who moved deftly between contemporary and traditional, between afro-caribbean and jooking? If she was gigging tough, and looks like she was trained, there’s a high likelihood that she was schooled in The Dunham Technique.

Katherine Dunham, perhaps the world’s best known Ethno Choreologist, was both academic and practitioner, intent on investigating, documenting, and canonizing African Diasporic movement. The Dunham Technique, among other things, is a synthesis of Afro-Caribbean movement and ballet as it is typically expressed in European and North American contexts. Dunham, a celebrated star of film and stage, a respected scholar, activist and educator passed in 2006 and is survived by her 82 year dance legacy.

Comparing Ms. Dunham to a contemporary practitioner, someone who inherited aspects of her style, is a redundant feat. I’d be hard pressed to find any black dancer that is not in some way tied to her history. Instead, I’d like to present what I’m calling The Dunham Technics — an opportunity for you, reader, to play, to act as DJ. You’ll mix between interviews Dunham gave late in life and footage of her younger days on screen, in conversation with her contemporaries as well as young, black dancers who are setting trends for the future, and whose styles exist outside of the traditional American Ballet. As I gathered the video, and began selecting, I was fascinated to notice the intersections of her words, and the bodily articulation from all over the world. In the videos below, dancers from countries like Senegal, Sweden and Haiti and cities like Oakland, New York, Memphis and Paris help to draw parallels. Shouts to YAK Films for doing the epic work of chronicling many of the dancers highlighted in these clips, and for the BFM style old-to-new dance video update you’ll see on the decks.

My hope is that before you go out tonight, you’ll take a few minutes, try your hands on the 1s and 2s, and comment below about what you noticed. It’s like the club. Sorta. A book club. For dancers. Who like video, and thinking. Like you. Here are some of my favorite mashups.

Feel free to play around, though. Wheel it back when you wanna. Just be careful not to delete any of the videos. Errybody’s sharing.

Oh, and wait til I get my money right and Thickwit steps its game up to infinite scroll. Til then, apologies to you and to my site designer, Adriel, for spinning out the margins.

[pageview url=”http://www.turntubelist.com/set/thedunhamtechnics2″ height=”440″ width=”1000″ border=”yes”]

1 Reply to "4 // Black Future Month // The Dunham Technics"

  • wonway
    February 8, 2012 (3:28 pm)


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