Katherine Dunham forms Les Ballet Negres

In 1931, when she was only 21,  Katherine Dunham (1910–2006 Dancer, anthropologist, social worker, activist, author) formed a group called Ballets Nègres, one of the first black ballet companies in the United States.

In 1928, while still an undergraduate, Dunham began to study ballet with Ludmilla Speranzeva, a Russian dancer who had settled in Chicago, having come to the United States with the Franco-Russian vaudeville troupe Le Théâtre de la Chauve-Souris directed by impresario Nikita Balieff. With the help of her brother, who was then attending the University of Chicago on scholarship, where she studied anthropology. There Dunham met at the University of Chicago she studied ballet with Mark Turbyfill and Ruth Page, who became prima ballerina of the Chicago Opera. Dunham teamed up with Page and Turbyfill to form what has been called the first black concert dance group, the Ballet Nègre, which made its debut in 1931 at Chicago’s annual Beaux Arts Ball. One of the numbers on the program is Negro Rhapsody. After a single, well-received performance in 1931, which is well received. No engagements followed, and the group disbands.

A few years later Dunham formed her own company, the Negro Dance Group, and appeared with the Chicago Symphony and at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934.

Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Dunham

Contemporary Black Biography – http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/dance-biographies/katherine-dunham

Library of Congress Timeline – http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/html/dunham/dunham-timeline.html


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