3 min read
When Ben and I started working on Known, we wanted to recognize great artists and creative of all types through small touches within the platform. As part of that, we'll be naming each release of the software after a noteworthy individual who has existed as a maker in some field. Visual artists, authors, musicians, and many more all have a place here.
This week, we launched our open beta and put out our first package release.
When I was thinking about naming the release, the first person who came to mind was Katherine Dunham. Ms. Dunham was a dancer, choreographer, social anthropologist, and activist. She was a pioneer of African-American dance and a foundational figure in the evolution of modern dance around the world. Her modern dance company, Katherine Dunham Company, ran for nearly 30 years and produced modern stars like Alvin Ailey and Eartha Kitt. Her signature dance techniques and training - Dunham Technique - integrates more formal barre work often seen in ballet with contractions, isolations, and movements inspired by West African and Caribbean dance.
Choreographer, dancer, cultural anthropologist
While in college at the University of Chicago in the 1930s, Katherine studied anthropology. She then received grants and fellowships to travel to the Caribbean to study dance ethnography. She spent her time in Jamaica, Martinique, Trinidad and Tobago, and Haiti. She continued to return to Haiti in the future and eventually bought property in the country. Upon returning to the United States and completing her degree, Katherine began to focus on dance and performance fulltime.
Through her company and dance school, Katherine Dunham shared not only dance, but also theater, music, social research, and Caribbean culture. She was a noted performer in the 1930s and 1940s, and she went on to become a social activist focusing on black rights in the United States and elsewhere.
Through both her choreography and performances, Katherine Dunham brought West African and Caribbean music and movements to the American dance scene, influencing the developments of jazz, modern, and contemporary dance in the United States. With her writing and social work, she also educated many and spread a message of cultural understanding, heritage, and equality.
I studied Afro-Haitian dance and performed with a Haitian folkloric troupe during my time in Los Angeles for college. I also had the pleasure of studying Dunham Technique under Anindo Marshall, a musician, Kenyan pop star, and choreographer in her own right. Dunham dance has a style that is lyrical and fluid while being extremely grounded and rigorous.
In 2006, a group of students from my college was making initial plans to visit Ms. Dunham in person during the upcoming year. Unfortunately, she passed away before the trip happened.
In honor of her contributions and innovations within the field of modern dance, as well as her work in cultural anthropology and social activism, I excited to name the very first beta release of the Known platform after Katherine Dunham.
Download Known Dunham release
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