Dunham. The single word conjures connection. Katherine Dunham revolutionized dance in America. Her life was an undulating umbilical cord back to our Motherland. With a Ph.D. in anthropology, she studied sacred traditional dance techniques and offered Black people a technical way to exercise the trauma of separation from our spiritual inheritance. She was ancient and modern and we are her daughters. She taught us to love our bodies, our Blackness, our culture. And she dedicated her entire life – 96 years on the planet – to freeing Black people, starting with her own community in East St. Louis.
Dunham’s impact on the world was deeply therapeutic. Boldly connective. A cultural revolution. There is no American modern dance movement without Katherine Dunham. She is the matriarch of Alvin Ailey AND The Dance Theater of Harlem. Because of her work, I fully understand the power of my own mother’s Holy Ghost dance. I understand that there is such a thing as full-body worship….that the African diaspora has to remember – or learn again – the art of riding Spirit to transform circumstance. And that healing and unifying our own bodies is a prerequisite to unifying our body politic.
(Today’s episode is dedicated to Dr. Linda Goodrich, the Dunham-trained teacher in Sacrament who taught my 22-year-old, God-fearing body to root into the earth, roll with the wind, and rise with the sun. To emote, undulate, AND to perform the rites of our foremothers. Rites of generosity, gratitude, sensuality, fearlessness. There is a dance for them all.)
Today, we invite you to experience the full-bodied legacy of Mrs. Katherine Dunham as we walk together in the community.
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