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Katherine Dunham's Dancers at American: Company of 50 give St. Louisans Most Exciting Theater Evening of Season
Katherine Dunham's Dancers at American: Company of 50 give St. Louisans Most Exciting Theater Evening of Season
TitleKatherine Dunham's Dancers at American: Company of 50 give St. Louisans Most Exciting Theater Evening of Season
CreatorBalch, Jack
Description"week's engagement" opened on a Monday night. Favorable performance review. Dunham lead in several dances, danced for a full house and full "standing room only sections" at the back of the house for an audience described as leaning forward on its elbows. Describes the program in detail. Show opened with "Rara Tonga", Cuban Slave Lament" and "Moorish Bolero". Popular numbers included "Rites de Passage" in three parts, and "Tropics". Article copy cuts off at the end and at the top by the date.
CollectionSCRC Text (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
SubcollectionKatherine Dunham Papers
Original Publication SourceSt. Louis Post-Dispatch
Place WrittenSt. Louis, MO
Date(s)February Tuesday
Subjects -peopleOhardieno, Roger ; Gomez, Tommy ; Pratt, John ; Dunham, Katherine
Other topicsAmerican Theater
Collection ID/Box#FP20_7_F1DUNHAM_B102_F12_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:
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The Katheri;ie Dunham dancers, in the most exciting stage debut of the season, opened a weeii's en¬ gagement at the American Thea¬ ter last night.
Led in severe, ! numbers by Miss Dunham, the tompany's choreo¬ grapher, organizer and star, the 17 dancers, a small but brilliant ronstellation of stars, T^rought the stage to life with a variety of dances and singing numbers, the origins of which lay in Melanesian, Haitian, Indian and Moorish folk¬ lore and religious and pagan ex¬ perience.
The impact of exotic dance forms on the audience, which filled every seat in the house and was leaning on its elbows on the partitions in the back-of-the-house standing room only sections, seemed tremendous. Almost every number was, at one time or an¬ other, interrupted by applause.
The show began slowly, almost lazily, with "Bar a Tonga, " a Melanesian-inspired folk dance telHng how a jealous husband was turned into a snake when he re¬ sisted a god's overtures to his beautiful wife. It was followed by *'Cuban Slave Lament, " a title which describes its content. Then came "Moorish Bolero." By the end of the first act all the racial themes and the variety of ap¬ proaches to the material in tech¬ niques had been suggested.
The substance of Miss Dun¬ ham's contribution was contained in the first half of the second act with "Rites de Passage, " consist¬ ing of two movementSf "Male Pu¬ berty Ritual" and "Fertility Ritual." These numbers, which were banned recently in Boston for "obscenity, " described the coming into the tribe by ancestral ritual of a boy and then, after the boy bad proven his worthiness to be cradled in hJs people, the mat¬ ing of the boy.
The dancing here, it seemed to this reviewer, compared in intensi¬ ty, awareness and technical means with that of any dance group that's been here in the past. The audience seemed most responsive to this number. Another hugely successful number was "Tropics— shore excursion." Here Miss Dunham played the part of a young woman who competes with the other young women for male homage and is at the end defeat¬ ed by nature. Age, presumably.
Stars of the show, besides Miss Dunham, were two remarkable male dancers, Roger Ohardieno and Tommy Gomez. Costumings and setting were the best seen here in some time, by John Pratt, now in the Army. The show car- TiAfl'^ta oWT or'^'hefltra nnd i^ppcial
* * Miss Dunham's seems an essen¬ tially shy and affectionate art. This may seem a strange state¬ ment in view of the censorships for "obscenity" the show has un¬ dergone and the boldness and sur¬ face sensuality of its dance im¬ ages. But the boldness, etc., de¬ rives from^ the local manners of the countries from which the forms spring. The shyness and affection Keep welling up from under the surfaces and constitutes what becomes a veritable portrait of the soul's need. This would appear to give the show its appeal- Accustom yourself to the man¬ ners (as a matter of fact, be en¬ tertained by the manners) and the deeper feelings Of the soul beneath the styles of the body become apparent. If this statement were not true, then the show might eaaily have seemed sexual and vul¬ gar as some of its critics have claimed. Last night's audience did not seem to find it vulgar.
Just as the painter Gaugain felt himself strongly attracted to the South Seas because of a lack he felt in Western life, and brought back with him flJi exotic color to the pale European palette, so Miss Dunham would appear to have gone to primitive society and brought back with her, in sensual coverings, an innocence of faith and a sense of place to match the scepticisms and homeiessnessas of her native land. She portrays a wistful, affection-needing people. * What is the future of Miss Pun- ham's theater? It seems to me that more choreographers will be needed eventually to give the show more variety than it has. At pres¬ ent. It constitutes what you might caU a gallery full of small por¬ traits and sketches, is an expres- sionistic show, in short. A full symphonic development has yet to come. '
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Original Formatreview
Original dimensions (cm.)41 x 5
Digital Object TypeImage
Digital File Format.tif
Digital File PublisherSpecial Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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