Tracking Dunham’s Everyday, 1950-53

We wanted to share some new material that we presented at the International Federation for Theatre Research conference in Belgrade in July. This work comes at the end of our pilot project, Dance in Transit and just as we begin Dunham’s Data. Where Dance in Transit has focused on travel, in Dunham’s Data, we expand our understanding and assessment of Dunham’s “movement” to include 1) the relationship of Dunham’s choreographies to domestic and international travel, both on formal tours as well as the choreographer’s own travels; and 2) Dunham’s circulation among networks of cultural and financial capital, as well as between artistic institutions and forms.  Here we begin the process of the first, which will ultimately use a cartographic approach to attend to the relationship between choreography and ethnography in Dunham’s work, using analysis of her travels to uncover new connections between the geographic movement of dancers and reflections of place in dance movement.

As a pilot study, we have manually curated a core dataset representing where Dunham was every single day between 1 January 1950 and 31 December 1953. We have assembled this dataset from archival documents including: personal and professional correspondence, contracts, receipt books, personal logs, immigration and visa records, historical flight, train, and boat route maps and schedules, programs, and newspaper articles. For the 1461 days total, we have discovered where Dunham was for 92% of the time. In addition, we kept track of modes of transportation, hotels, and performance venues --- often a theatre and a nightclub in the same night. Our data suggests that Dunham was in theatres at least three quarters of the time in this four year period, and many of the days she was not in the theater she was traveling to the next performance.

We wanted to share a fly-through video of a map we have created based on this data. This is a work in progress and thus has no labels or key. 1950 is at the bottom, and the timeline grows to the end of 1953 at the top. We have been experimenting with how to make visible different types of labor, and the green dots represent days we believe she was working in a theatre; red represents travel days and non-working days.

There is so much information imbedded in this data --- from the specific changes in touring patterns over time, to the toll that this amount of work would take on the bodies of Dunham and her company members. We’re are working right now on an article about some of our specific findings about this four-year period and the “politics of the everyday” that the granularity of these methods surface.