ABSTRACT

She then told him about the Black Muslim group in Chicago l about whom she had written a research paper:

American Negroes seeking social and economic stability, first banded together, my study showed, by a Japanese in Detroit bur soon transferr{ed} their headquarters to Chicago and call{ed} the new establishment Temple Number Two. According to press reports Temple Number One was disbanded under pressure; rumour had it that some of the Detroit members had been intercepted in a basement in the act of dismembering a white policeman in preparation for ritual feasting. My thesis was ... that people would not fall

What fascinates me about this story, however, is the way it reveals Dunham in 1936 as someone who brought together Eutope and America, black and white, anthropology and the urban sociology of modernity, and the ideas of the recently exiled German psychologist Erich Fromm. Furthermore Dunham was, at the time, someone who had experience of both ballet and modern dance and would draw on these in developing an African American style of dance. Dunham's early dance training was in ballet with Mark Turbyfill and Ludmilla Speranzeva in Chicago (Barzel and Turbyfill 1983). Her first significant professional appearance had been in a ballet with Ruth Page. Speranzeva herself had initially trained at the Kamerny Theatre in Moscow but she had also studied in Germany with Mary Wigman. Dunham had taken lessons from, among others, the German dancer Harald Kreutzberg (who was also a pupil of Wigman's) when he had been in Chicago working with Ruth Page. In an early statement that is undated but was presumably written some time in the 1930s, Dunham expresses an interest in studying with both Mary Wigman and Martha Graham 'so that I would be capable, in every sense of the word, to train a group of dancers with which to interpret the {African and Caribbean] materials collected in research, and produce ballets which I am confident such research would inspire' (Dunham 1978a: 199).