March 1, 2009

Blog Entry 3: Black History Month Conference

For the first of my two outside lectures, I attended two events that were part of the Black History Month Conference. I went to the plenary lecture where Farah Jasmine Griffin spoke and the dance and music tribute to Katherine Dunham. In the lecture, Dr. Griffin mainly spoke about the idea of movements and migrations in relation to the African American people. She talked about how these movements are always occurring with or without the people. She also stated that the freedom-loving form of African American music and dance were born out of the unfree past of slavery. She said the most important black migration was the second one that occurred from 1940-1970 because this is when black Americans became urban and transformed the face of "urban". Two other important concepts were: 1. African American artists were just as known for being activists as the activists themselves and 2. We have a tendency to romanticize the African American political movements (1950's and 60's ring a bell?). There are some movements that go completely unnoticed, but are still important.
The second event, the tribute to Katherine Dunham, was amazing! Katherine Dunham was a dancer, choreographer, anthropologist, and activist. She had a hugely successful dance career and started the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. She's choreographed hundreds of dances inspired by African, Afro-Caribbean, and African American cultural art forms. One important fact on Dunham was that she was born into a mixed race family who lived in Joliet, Illinois in 1912. How much of an everyday occurrence would this be back then?

Dunham's dances are characterized by looseness, repetition, and a combination of different dance styles. This combination of styles could be born out of her coming from a mixed race family. Her dances combine different cultural dance forms to create a unique style all her own. Dunham's dance technique has been influential in many different modern dance techniques. The dancers, as well as the Jazz Band, did an amazing job with this tribute!

Katherine Dunham on her influence:

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