Southern Illinois University Carbondale SCRC Text (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
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Haitian Voodoo Dance Thrills Savants of Chicago Schools
Haitian Voodoo Dance Thrills Savants of Chicago Schools
TitleHaitian Voodoo Dance Thrills Savants of Chicago Schools
CreatorHayes, Frank L.
DescriptionArticle about Dunham's demonstration of a ceremonial dance to Damballa, the voodoo snake spirit and her recent trip to Haiti
CollectionSCRC Text (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
SubcollectionKatherine Dunham Papers
Original Publication SourceChicago Daily News
Place WrittenChicago, IL
Subjects -peopleHerskovits, Melville J. (drummer) ; Dunham, Katherine
Other topicsvoodoo ; Haiti
Collection ID/Box#FP20_7_F1DUNHAM_B102_F02_01
Rights StatementFor permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this image, please contact the Special Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Phone: + 1 (618) 453-2516. Email:
Katherine Dunham, ^38 South Park avenue who has just returned from studying native dances as a Rosenwald feHov/ in Haiti, Martinique. Trinidad, Guadeloupe and among the maroons (descend¬ ants of fugitive slaves) Jamaica,
Haitian Voodoo Dance Thrills Savants of Chicago Schools
The professor dropped to his knees. He brought the heel of his palm dov/A rhythmically upon the cowhide drumhead, WiUi the drum¬ stick grasped in his other hand he beat a tattoo on the blue and white cylindrical frame of the drum. The hunsi (priestess) began to dance,
*'Damballa/* she murmured.
At the word the professor changed his tempo. The dancer's shoulders twitched in slow rhythm, gradually accelerating with the drum. The se¬ lected audience drew in its breath.
This was the Haitian ceremonial dance to Damballa, voodoo snake- spirit.
professor ihe Drummer.
It took place at 49th street and Ellis avenue in the rooms of the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Prof. Rob¬ ert RedHeld, University of Chicago anthropologist, sat in the front row of spectators. The drummer-accom¬ panist was Prof. Melville J. Hersl^o- vits of Northwestern university.
The dance was demonstrated by Katherine Dunham, who played Reba in the drsma "Run Little ChHlun^' at the Harris in J934, di¬ rected the ballet in the same show, and danced in "La Guiablesse" with the Chicago Symphony orchestra at Orchestra hall and at the Civic opera house.
Miss Dunham has just returned from studying native dances as a Rosenwald fellov/ in Haiti, Mar¬
tinique, Trinidad, Guadeloupe, and among the maroons (descendants of fugitive slaves) of Jamaica. She lived among the people and adopt¬ ed their ways, and was initiated in¬ to the vaudun (voodoo) cult of Haiti,
*'My entire experience was a con- tinous thrill/' she said, but added that ont or two episodes were more thrilling than others.
Learned the Dance.
The shoulder-dance to Damballa she had danced in a Haitian moun¬ tain community, as part of a serious
ceremony, Damballa the snake-gcd (some peasants identify him with St. Patrickl) was found by a native diviner to be Miss Dunham's patron '*loi" or deity. She had learned the dance in the plains, and when she performed it in the mountains she danced so well and with such abandon that the people, not guess¬ ing that this could come from training, believed she was possessed by Damballa.
'They even brought offerings to me, as they do to one who is pos¬ sessed, " said Miss Dunham- *'It was' an embarrassing situation, for I didi not wish to deceive them by pre-1 tending to a possession which was not real. T took the only way out I could think of, plunging into the baptismal pool—a gesture acknowl¬ edging the ^loi';*
Lived as Native,
Publication of sensational ac¬ counts or purported accounts of Haitian mysteries, Miss Dunham observed, has caused Haiti to frown on prying Americans. Being of the isame race as the people she visited, and satisfying them of her sym¬ pathy and of her sincere desire to live, while among them, as they lived, she overcame the barriers, but there was one crisis in Trinidad. ' "1 brought a chicken to a cere¬ mony to sacrifice for an ancestor, ^' she said, "I tried to take a pic- 4ure of a man who was possessed. MIy clicking camera betrayed me; Iflie people disbanded the cere¬ mony Efnd, much exercised* held a meeting to decide what should be done about me. I slid out, saying I would return; I did return another; time, and think i was forgiven, but they were rather cool/*
Miss Dunham distinguishes be¬ tween vaudun or Haitian voodoo and magie, or magic. A voodoo prie'* in Haiti may perform good m? , but never casts evil spells; ¦want such you must go to; ar magician, she said. She hat possibly Joseph's | of lany colore, in the! :poerties as the' worn daily ch color a ¦. a partic-
Original Formatarticle
Original dimensions (cm.)27 x 16
Digital Object TypeImage
Digital File Format.tif
Digital File PublisherSpecial Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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