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Tropic Torpor and Frenzy in Revue at Blackstone
Tropic Torpor and Frenzy in Revue at Blackstone
TitleTropic Torpor and Frenzy in Revue at Blackstone
CreatorLewis, Lloyd
DescriptionLloyd Lewis describes the performance as a "sex show" and recommends that the "Methodists of Joliet" who may have been startled by what he refers to as a cabaret fund-raiser Katherine Dunham organized for her church in the 1920's, should come wearing the "frosty asbestos uniforms of the fire brigade". He mentions Dunham's Rosenwald fellowship and anthropological studies in the West Indies briefly, but finishes by saying she "returned after a year and a half in the sugar jungles full of the rituals and ceremonial mysteries of the primitive". Lewis describes Dunham's previous work as "keeping within the self-imposed limits of Negro studies" and applauds her for moving beyond "racial stylization" in this performance, despite the fact that her company is "the first American black ballet". He describes the dances in the third section of the show as plantation dances, blues, Dixieland struts and Barrelhouse bumps, as well as numbers inspired by Moors, South Sea Islanders, Central American Indians, West Indian natives, and Brazilian gauchos. He believes that the more "serious" pieces: Rara Tonga, Ritual Dance, and Rites de Passage go back and forth between too fast and too slow. Rites de Passage was too "anthropologic" for him to understand and he describes it as looking no more comprehensible than a "bunch of boys at a swimming hole beset by yellow jackets" , whereas he says other critics found it too sexy. He describes one of Dunham's solos "The Woman with the Cigar" as the best number. The show opened May 8, 1944
CollectionSCRC Text (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
SubcollectionKatherine Dunham Papers
Original Publication SourceThe Chicago...
Place WrittenChicago, IL
Subjects -titlesTropical Revue
Subjects -peopleHurok, Sol ; Ohardieno, Roger ; Gomez, Tommy ; Williams, Lavinia ; French, Laverne ; Ellis, Lucille ; Pratt, John ; Dunham, Katherine
Other topicsBlackstone Theater
Collection ID/Box#FP20_7_F1DUNHAM_B102_F12_02
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:
TranscriptTHE CHI
Tropic Torpor and Frenzy In Revue at Blackstone
IF THE Methodists of Joliet were scandalized in tlie late 1920 s by the cabaret party little Kath erine Dunham staged for her church's benefit they shoild see
But if they should come to the Blackstone Theater in Chicago to see her in "Tropical Revue which opened last evening let them come not in tne snowy robes of the saved tiut in the frosty as bestos uniforms of the fire bri gade on the flattops of the Pacific For the three-act Jance entertain mem in which Producer Sol Hu rok has her touring the countu, i a sex show, even ;f most of the numbers have the torpor of an- thropolgy written into their choregraphy. It was to study the folk ways of the West Indies in pursuit of her thesis on dance composition at the University of
that Miss Dunham went our on a Julius Rosenwald schol-
- -hip in 1935 and from there she returned aitei a ^et.i and half m the sugar jungles full of the n'uals and ceremonial mjsteries 0+ the primitive
In \^ried Boles These fruits of re earth she has shown in concer ani? in flooi ^hows about the country varying he choies at times by appear¬ ances in 'uch stage show s as
Cabin m the Sty bit all the lime keeping v. thm the self- imposed limits of Negio studies. A last hou, eici sie lias broken through these limits and although htr company of dar-cefs is entirely Negro and would thus appear to be the first American black bal¬ let, her program goes far beyond any racial styliaation. They join her, in the third section ot the
college ini
tominy dorsey
* his trombone and his orcheslrawiih
gene krupa
'^the ace drummer man"
and bob alien
nanthAr room no cover charge in either
show, to do plantatitn dances, blues Dixieland ^tiuts and bar- lelhouse bumps but the more tmguished poitions of her cho- legraphv range al! across equatorial belt dealing with the i-ythmic appe+ te- of Mcors, South Sea Islanders Central 1 Amencan Indians West Indian I natives and even dipping as south as Brazil foi the melodic ' ¦•nd beguilmg Bahiana dalliance song of the gajchofa
l^ith a regulation band m pit and e\tra diummcra sorai them quiet droll too Mi=s Dun¬ ham stages a fuH-sized enteitain- ment albeit some of the serious primitive pieces like Eaia Tonga, Ritual Dance and Sites De Passage f are monotonous m their pattern, i torpor to frenzy, which means that they go too slow most of the time and too fast the rest. The ; Rites De Passage number, which ¦ has been regarded as altogether r too sexy by critics here and ther turned out last night to be so ar thropologic that I couldn't catch i on. True, the program assi me, in highly academic terms, that 1 Miss Dunham had, in this big ' number, choregraphed the sacred and dangerous ceremonies by which barbaric tribes induct boys into manhood and maidens into j matrimony, but to any simple eye ¦ the events looked no more ro- I mantle than a bunch of boys at ' a swimming hole beset by yellow : jackets.
'Cigar' Best Number.
Miss Dunham's best number is
The Woman with the Cigar, " an
nteiiude along some West Indian '
wharf in which she plays a wan- '
from Chicago who with slowly
Original Formatreview
Original dimensions (cm.)11 x 11
Digital Object TypeImage
Digital File Format.tif
Digital File PublisherSpecial Collections Research Center, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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