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Cabin In The Sky
Cabin In The Sky
TitleCabin In The Sky
DescriptionLengthy review article about Katherine Dunham and "Cabin in the Sky". Reprinted in Joliet paper from a New York Times review
CollectionSCRC Text (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
SubcollectionKatherine Dunham Papers
Original Publication SourceSpectator
Place WrittenJoliet, IL
Subjects -titlesCabin in the Sky
Subjects -peopleDunham, Katherine
Collection ID/Box#FP20_7_F1DUNHAM_B102_F08_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:
TranscriptNOVEMBER 21, 1940
Katliei'ine Dunham^ Joliet girl, Si-aduate of Joliet hiEli ai i an honor fltudent of University of Chioe, go, ia starrinE with Btliel Watei's in 'Cabin in the Sky'' in New Tork, The show opened three weeks ago and many press notices of it liave appeared in New York papers. In a recent issue of the New York Times, John Martin d ;voted almost a column to Miss Dunham- It tells In a way aome- Ihing about the Joliet girra part in the play that has wun favor with rJew York theatersoers.
AUDIENCES that flocked last season to Katherine Dunham's performances of "Tropics and 'Le Jazz Hot' " at the Windsor Theater will undoubt¬ edly make tracks for the Martin Beck to see. her in ''Cabin in the Sky" with Ethel Waters. They will, indeed, be amply rewarded, not only by the performance it¬ self but also by their own com¬ parisons of what she does ia the role of the wicked Georgia Brown with what she has done in her own creations of women of Martinique Hiid Haiti and the Florida swamps. That Georgia herself will come out on the losing side of such a com¬ parison goes without saying, for the medium of the Broadway mu¬ sical is scarcely a fruitful one for free creati n, but Katherine Dun¬ ham will emerge with heightened \ honors for being able to take both I
mediums in her stride.
* * * %
Not that there is any Intention „here to cavil with the standards of "Cabin in the Sky.'' Far from it. Indeed, once one has got over the first shock of biting into a kind of theatrical three-decker sandwich consisting of alternate Ij^yers of "fantasie Negre'' and Tin Pan Alley, it provides a lare eve¬ ning of theatrical delight. Besides marking Miss Dunham's debut in a new field, it is George Balan- chine's first venture in staging a Complete Broadway production, and that is another item of more than passing interest. The combi¬ nation Is a curious one, but it bears fruit. There are numerous directors who have more know¬ ledge of Negro dancing in their background, for the i^^^orgia that is the bij-tiiplace of Balanchine happens to be not in the U, S. A. but in the V. S. S, R-. but how many are there who would have ha^ the intuition to use Miss Dun¬ ham and her group instead of the more typical Harlem steppers ? : As in all bona fide Balanchine productions, there is a dream bai- Jet. Here it ciW.^tves fronn an fi, muBingly hybrid Egypt through which the Mississippi River un¬ mistakably flows. Miss Dunham is a ravishingly beautiful Cleopat- t^. Again, there is a typically ingenious number in which danc¬ ers' hands are used with renin^^k- able eltect. Tne song is ^'fiv^'tfy Jn the Honeycomb" and once more Hiss Dunham is the provocative Jady- li Balanchine has here con¬ tributed nothing that can be of the ehghtest use to Sunday Schools over the land, he has made a first rate routine. The stage fairly siazies.
* * #
Throughout the evening It is Miss Dunham's chief busineaa ti sizzle, and that ia one of the things that will seem most extra¬ ordinary to those who have follow¬ ed her work in its previous phases. In her personal programs she has frequently.represented women of distinctly torrid temperament but never before has there been one at ail like Georgia. The dif¬ ference lies entirely in the me¬ dium. In her own creations she Is never without comment, pre¬ senting the character and telling a wealth of secrets about it at the same time; as Georgia, however, she has no chance for comment, no chance for the very quality that
Tlie. Sky
Katherine Dunham, dancing star of "Cabin in the Sky, " now running in New York, ie a former Joliet girl who Ir receiving: high critical and popular praise for her work in the play as weH as in recitals she is giving with her dance troupe.
the very fact that 1 bam'8 talents are ind rather than bumptiot tone to the role that v^a-^.
tally lost If she i^ere in fact conventional Harlem temptress."^ Was this design on the director's | part? If not, it was unquestion- j ably intuition.
As for the actual choreography, ; more serious questions arise. Ba- ! lanc}^ine has wisely allowed the dancers throughout to make use of great quantities of their own type of movements, many of them right out of the vocabulary of their con¬ cert repertoire. Frequently, how¬ ever, he has forced them into his own patterns, and in the process they have lost flavor. Just as Georgia BrowTi is less effective than, say "Woman With the Cigar" in Miss Dunham's "Shore Excursion, " so the group dances are for the most part without com- j ment. Is this once more the exi- i gencles of the Broadway medium, f or would the result have, be- #, -nore pungent if Miss Dunha^.* h been responsible for the 'die^c^. raphy, even without so' ^ch | knowledge of musica.' comedy i routine? Certainly i^i one spot where Balanchine has given C^or gia a passage of conventiona musical-comedy dancing to do in "Ho-.\ey in the Honeycomb, "' it would have been be.tter to leav-^ the problem to Miss Dunham, fo this kiriLL of dancing ia outside her experience. The answer is not so clear elsewhere.
^ * *
What is definitely clear is ¦^^t'j the group itself is a wonacrluii one, though audiences that see it f only in "Cabin in the Sky" can only guess as much. Archie Sav¬ age and Lili Romero and two or three others are capable of fa^ more than they have any oppo tunity to do here. \\'hich is re¬ grettable, if understandable.
Happily, Mis3 Dunham and her company are not discontinuing their concert activities. They are, as a m^atter of fact, dancing this afternoon at the Y. M. H. A., , where, incidentally, the house has i been sold out for days. Ther-* will [ be other performances, hov *^
gives her art its charm and its c#nt seduetresfl. Certainly Geor- vaiidity. She is a hundred per I gia lose* in the comparison, but
Original Formatreview
Original dimensions (cm.)36 X 21
Digital Object TypeImage
Digital File Format.tif
Digital File PublisherSpecial Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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