DUNHAM’S DATA RESEARCH BLOG

Visceral Data for Dance Histories essay now online!

screenshot of essay

We are excited to share that our essay “Visceral Data for Dance Histories: Katherine Dunham’s People, Places, and Pieces” has been published by TDR, and is available online open access at https://www.doi.org/10.1017/S1054204321000708

Between 1947 and 1960, choreographer Katherine Dunham spent over 5,000 days in hundreds of cities on six continents. During that time, almost 200 dancers, drummers, and singers traveled with her, performing 166 repertory pieces. Dunham’s expansive work lends itself to digital approaches that illuminate the complex ways history is iterated across bodies, and how the specific questions raised by dance history underpin a visceral approach to the digital humanities. Although digital methods have become increasingly commonplace in most humanities fields, dance historians have yet to propose how such tools are useful, or to adapt them to dance’s specific questions, concerns, and traces. In this article, we show how working closely with Katherine Dunham’s archives complicates the organizing fictions of “the work,” “the company,” and “the tour” through which dance scholarship often tries to manage historical complexity, and how digital methods offer other avenues for retaining contingency, uncertainty, and complexity at the heart of historical inquiry. 

The companion static and interactive visualizations for this essay are all available from our portfolio.