Interview With Katherine Dunham
Jan. 15, 2000
[Ca. 2 min. of testing of equipment and introductory conversation.] Katherine Dunham speaks with Constance Valis Hill about the musical comedy Cabin in the sky including the reasons she was interested in participating [with her company, Katherine Dunham Company] in the show; George Balanchine's idea to have the show open with a Russian dirge and Ethel Waters' objection; her impressions of Balanchine at the time, including his humanity; the warm relationship between Balanchine and Dukelsky [Vernon Duke]; Dukelsky as a composer; the music of the show including what Dunham sees as her influence on it, in particular the Hell scene [the scene set to Fugue]; Dukelsky's and Balanchine's trip to Cuba; briefly, Boris Aronson, John Pratt, and the costumes for the show; the song My old Virginia home on the Nile, including the extent to which Balanchine helped her with the choreography set to that song; reasons for her use of fantasy and exotic elements; the combining of Virgina and Egypt as a smooth mixing of African elements into Americana; very briefly, some of her other Americana dances of this era, for example, Plantation dances; her aesthetic insight regarding art and science; dreams and fulfillment of dreams as the essence of art; the three main categories of dance she tried to include: primitive or exotic, ballet, and Americana; more on her Plantation dances including how she interviewed old people to reconstruct traditional steps [short gap]; Balanchine's help with her choreography set to Honey and the honeycomb; Hill plays a recording from 1964 of the song Honey in the honeycomb as Dunham and Hill comment; Dunham speaks about her using the Honey and the honeycomb number in night clubs; sing-speaks some of the lyrics from the song; Dunham looks at photographs and identifies a scene as Love me tomorrow; Dunahm speaks further about My old Virginia home on the Nile, including her costume and the possible location of the sheet music for this song; Balanchine's idea for a Bedouin-style costume for Dunham; Dunham sings a few bars [of the song Balanchine had originally suggested that Dunham sing in this scene]; Honey in the honeycomb as the most important song in the production for her personally; how as an artist she avoided segregated housing; her romantic interest in Balanchine at the time; the freedom in movement in Dunham's choreography as attractive to Balanchine due to his Georgian temperament.
1 sound disc (ca. 73 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.