Kate Elswit (PI, University of London, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) and Harmony Bench (CI, The Ohio State University) have been awarded over £566,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a three-year research project.
Dunham’s Data: Katherine Dunham and Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry will be studying how dance moves both across geographical locations and across networks of cultural, artistic, and financial capital through the case study of Katherine Dunham, as well as the kinds of questions and problems that make the analysis and visualization of data meaningful for dance historical inquiry. The project will be carried out with UK industry partners One Dance UK’s Dance of the African Diaspora and the Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as via international knowledge exchange partnerships with digital projects at OSU (US), Ludwig Maximilians Universität Munich (Germany), and the University of New South Wales (Australia).
Dunham is an exemplary figure for analysing the ways dance moves across both geographical locations and networks of cultural, artistic, and financial capital. She worked across five continents in many contexts, and also spent over one third of her life on tour.
The scale and distribution of datapoints necessary to research the transnational circulation of an artist like Dunham pose a challenge for traditional scholarly approaches. Using digital research methods and data visualization in the context of dance history can catalyse a better understanding of how dance movements are shared and circulated among people and continents, and the networks of support and influence that undergird artistic and economic success. While digital methods have altered the landscape of most humanities and arts disciplines, the field of dance studies has yet to fully identify how it can benefit from these analytic approaches.
Therefore, this project is not only devoted to the specific line of research regarding Dunham, but also to the original problems and questions of dance history that can be advanced through an innovative critical mixed methods approach that includes geographical mapping and network analysis.
Pictured above: Katherine Dunham and her daughter Marie Christine board an airplane in New York bound for Rome, 1953. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Library of Congress.
Using digital research methods and data visualization in the context of dance history can catalyse a better understanding of how dance movements are shared and circulated among people and continents