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Josephine Baker and Katherine DunhamDances in Literature and Cinema$
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Hannah Durkin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042621

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042621.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 05 August 2021

Navigating Primitivism’s Persistent Gaze

Navigating Primitivism’s Persistent Gaze

Dunham in Postwar European Cinema

(p.168) Chapter Six Navigating Primitivism’s Persistent Gaze
Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham

Hannah Durkin

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines Dunham’s work on Botta e risposta (1950) and Mambo (1954) to highlight the substantial creative freedom that midcentury European cinema granted to a Black woman choreographer. The Dunham company’s portrayal in these films suggests that her troupe’s fame in postwar Europe was filtered through the same crude ideas about Black cultures that informed Baker’s career. And yet within such a framework, Dunham was afforded authorial control over her dance scenes to an extent not possible in Hollywood and, like Baker, used these scenes to present a culturally complex vision of Black womanhood that countered racist misconceptions. The chapter establishes Dunham as a coauthor of Mambo by showing that her choreography is central to its artistic vision.

Keywords:   Katherine Dunham, Botta e risposta, Mambo, 1950s European cinema, French cinema, Italian cinema, African American film, dance, race, primitivism

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