Dance in Transit at IFTR

Harmony Bench and Kate Elswit will participate in the Digital Humanities working group at the International Federation for Theatre Research (IFTR) conference in Belgrade, Serbia this July. They will be discussing their current research project, Dance in Transit. Combining dance history, science and technology studies, data analysis, digital humanities, and archival research, Dance in Transit extends their work on the geography and networks of dance touring, with particular focus on the infrastructures of transportation that link cities, countries, and cultures. This presentation will address the case study of African American choreographer Katherine Dunham, whose artistic and ethnographic work included research trips throughout the Caribbean, global travel for her work in the Hollywood film industry, as well as the domestic and international touring of her dance company. Through the lens of Dance in Transit, this work examines Dunham’s touring circa 1950-1953, which includes her premier of the controversial work Southland in Chile in 1950 and its reprisal in France in 1953, placing the tours around Southland in tandem with ship, train, and automobile routes/roads, as well as other spatial and infrastructural networks. Analyzing Dunham’s touring and choreographic work at the cusp of the Civil Rights Era places the transportation systems upon which she relied in the context of the racism that she and her mostly African American company members faced when engaged in travel. They will show work in progress on a web-based representation of Southland in the context of both Dunham’s broader work and the travels of her and her company specifically.