Dunham Technique is an interdisciplinary dance technique that includes foundational references from ballet, modern, jazz, and various dances of the African Diaspora, including Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil. The dance technique that Katherine Dunham (1909 – 2006) invented circa 1931 has been continually modified to adapt to contemporary trends in dance and new kinesiological research, yet it is part of a holistic system which aims to develop the whole person. This technique class is structured to economize movement and energy, by initially addressing the breath and isolations. It is traditionally accompanied by a drum ensemble. Barre and/or center work will include exercises such as fall and recovery, body rolls, heel presses, and leg swings. Moving across the floor with progressions, students will follow the drums’ polyrhythms and slowly build upon basic movements, in which turns and elevation may be added. Finally, choreography will be taught with an eye toward the future of the technique, integrating Dunham’s movement vocabulary with contemporary vernacular dance through my own personal statement.
Contemporary African Dance
In the world of contemporary dance, rules are made to be broken. In Africa, dance liberates the body and the soul. In contemporary African dance, these perspectives are combined to create joyful kinesthetic noise. Shoes are not required, but a motive of self-acceptance is. Contemporary African dance explores the connections between dance and music traditions as well as contemporary trends in dance throughout the African Diaspora. We will dance to recorded music by contemporary artists from Africa and around the globe, as well as live percussion.
Jazz dance originated in the United States on a path parallel to jazz music. Over the past few hundred years, the vibratory, percussive, and swinging qualities of African dances have been combined with a Western dance perspective, melding modern dance and classical ballet technique. Jazz dance involves swinging from the hips and shoulders, undulating the spine, bounding from the ground, and exploring a world of contrasting rhythms and energies. My class structure represents a confluence of my own inspirations including Dunham and Giordano techniques, rhythm tap, hip hop, and new strains of contemporary dance. With the highly contrasting movements and quick shifts of balance that I demand of dancers in my choreography, I aim to develop an impermeable core muscle system while allowing for the liberation of the pelvis and spine.