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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Tension in Solidarity: Race, Gender, and National Identity in Katherine Dunham’s Southland

  • Author(s): Timmons, Michele
  • et al.

There are no video records and little documentation of the performance; however, choreographer Katherine Dunham’s obscure dance work, Southland, still succeeded in epitomizing a community that was enshrouded in the complex negotiation of three distinct modes of solidarity: the performance of race, gender, and national identity. Using dance as a mode for analysis of these types of categorical tensions “can provide a critical example of the dialectical relationship between cultures and the bodies that inhabit them” (Albright 3), and as such Dunham’s ballet works subtly, but intentionally, to subvert a supposed hierarchy between these three systems of oppression. Through the analysis of the three women present in this performance - the white avenger, Julie, the mournful black lover, Lucy, and the highly-politicized choreographer herself – Dunham presents the tension that resides in performing nation, race, and gender.

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