Throughout 2009, the centennial year of Katherine Dunham's birth, the Missouri History Museum offers a major museum exhibition, Katherine Dunham: Beyond the Dance, to celebrate the many facets of the Renaissance woman known as "La Grande Katherine". Organized by the Missouri History Museum, Katherine Dunham: Beyond the Dance sweeps aside the boundaries between theatre and museum as the visitor explores Dunham's contributions to dance and anthropology; her career that spanned decades and continents; her global activism and her enduring legacy.
The exhibition is divided into four main categories. A biography section introduces the visitor to the Illinois-born girl who would grow up to be an international dance star. The other three sections each represent the geo-cultural influences from which Dunham drew inspiration: Afro-Caribbean, African and American. Enlarged photographs, colorful costumes, props and video vividly bring to life dance performances that were inspired by each of the three cultures.
Since debuting in November 2008, Katherine Dunham: Beyond the Dance has garnered overwhelmingly positive response. Here are excerpts from some museum visitor comments:
- "I saw Ms. Dunham in 1948 ... I wouldn't have missed this exhibit for the world."
- "This is my second time visiting the exhibition ... I don't think any single individual could leave here and not feel anything."
- "Everyone must come, see and experience."
- "This was the first time I heard of Ms. Dunham ... I can't believe I didn't know her. She is so amazing."
- "I have been inspired by Katherine Dunham ... an educated, artful, ambitious and daring woman."