To anyone who asked, Katherine Dunham repeated a consistent message: training in the performing arts prepared people to face life’s problems. Too often, she felt, individuals wandered through life unaware of how the world worked and how they fit into it.
Joanna Dee Das
Joanna Dee Das is an assistant professor of dance at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her PhD in history from Columbia University in 2014 and subsequently held two postdoctoral fellowships in dance studies, one at Stanford University and another at Williams College. Her research interests include African diasporic dance, musical theatre, and the politics of performance in the 20th century. Her book manuscript, Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in May 2017. Das has published an article on Dunham’s activism in East St. Louis for the Journal of Urban History and has an essay on Dunham’s contributions to the decolonization movement forthcoming in Thomas F. DeFrantz’s edited anthology Dancing the African Diaspora (Duke). She has published book reviews in Dance Research Journal, Journal of American History, and Journal of African American History, and has a performance review forthcoming from TDR.
Posts by Joanna Dee Das
The real Elvis is American, remember, and America is a consumer society. The desires we project, the stuff we buy—that is what feels real to us. It lets us have any Elvis we want. He left plenty of kitsch in his wake, plenty of pseudo-religion, plenty of Elvis jokes—but he was not, is not, a joke. He lived our contradictions, released our inhibitions, and lost himself in the process.