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Sierra Leone native Asadata Dafora premieres the African dance-drama "Kykunkor" to rave reviews, as well as his dance "Ostrich," blazing a trail for a new genre of performance. (Click on the video clip icon at left to watch a excerpt from the "Ostrich.")

Gertrude Stein's "Four Saints in Three Acts" premieres on Broadway with a cast of black dancers, to critical acclaim. It is choreographed by Britain's Sir Frederick Ashton and conducted by Virgil Thompson.


1936 - "Macbeth"
University of Chicago anthropology student Katherine Dunham wins a Rosenwald Travel Fellowship to study the dances of Martinique, Jamaica, and Trinidad. While there she gathers material for her master's thesis, "The Dances of Haiti."

The WPA's Federal Theatre Project establishes the short-lived Dance Project. White choreographer Charles Weidman premieres the protest dance "Lynchtown."

Edna Guy performs at the First National Dance Congress and Festival. Helen Tamiris is one of the primary organizers of the weeklong event.

Asadata Dafora choreographs dances for the WPA Federal Theatre's Negro Unit's production of Orson Wells' "Macbeth."


1937 - American Negro Ballet
Edna Guy and Allison Burroughs stage a "Negro Dance Evening" at the 92nd Street YMHA on March 7. They share the program with Asadata Dafora and introduce Katherine Dunham's dance company, which includes Talley Beatty.

Hampton's Creative Dance Group debuts in New York City. Eugene Von Grona's American Negro Ballet debuts at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem on November 21 to a full house of illuminati. James Weldon Johnson introduces the program. TIME magazine, the NEW YORK SUN, and other periodicals give favorable reviews.

Helen Tamiris' "How Long Brethren" is danced to songs of protest and overshadows all other concerts.

1938 Katherine Dunham becomes the director of ballet for the Federal Theatre Project in Chicago and performs "L'Ag'Ya."

1939 Katherine Dunham is named dance director of the New York Labor Stage, and choreographs dances for the musical "Pins and Needles."

"Tropics and Le Jazz Hot" opens at Broadway's Windsor Theatre on February 18, launching Dunham's career as an internationally famous dancer. The NEW YORK TIMES critic John Martin praises the performance, particularly her piece "Barrel House." (Click on the video clip icon at left to watch a excerpt from "Barrel House.")

In late-1940s, Dunham's troupe appears in "Cabin in the Sky," the black Broadway musical and motion picture starring Ethel Waters.

1941 Katherine Dunham appears in STAR-SPANGLED RHYTHM, the first of several films.

1943 Twenty years after Missouri Congressman L.C. Dyer's anti-lynching bill failed to pass in the U.S. Congress, lynchings still occur: three are reported this year. In Harlem, New York, Detroit, Michigan, and Mobile, Alabama, riots erupt over jobs and police shootings.

The Negro Dance Company, which Wilson Williams forms with Felicia Sorel, debuts with works by former Graham-dancer Anna Sokolow.

Pearl Primus premieres her anti-lynching solo, "Strange Fruit," and two other social protest pieces, "Rock Daniel" and "Hard Time Blues" at the 92nd Street YMHA. For a performance at Café Society, she creates "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," inspired by Langston Hughes' Poem. White choreographers also tackling social issues include Sophie Maslow, William Bales, and Jane Dudley.

Katherine Dunham and her company premiere "Tropical Revue" at the Martin Beck Theatre.

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