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Dance department hosts Katherine Dunham tribute

Dancer/choreographer Katherine Dunham, photographed in the 1950s. 

The university’s dance card is full next week, as it marks National Dance Week with “A Celebration of Dance at USC: A Tribute to Katherine Dunham.”

The program is an opportunity for the USC community to witness the distinctive dance style of the renowned African-American choreographer and dancer, who will receive an honorary degree at next month’s Commencement.

“I’m personally very excited that Dr. Dunham will be visiting USC,”said Margo Apostolos, associate professor in the School of Theatre and director of the USC Dance Theatre.

Those who know Dunham’s style will be able to see how her work has influenced generations of dancers. A series of master classes open to USC faculty, staff, students and the neighboring community will explore African and Caribbean dances – styles Dunham has used with her own dance troupes, the Tropical Revue and the Katherine Dunham Dance Company.

Trained as an anthropologist, Dunham, now 84, incorporated what she observed in the Caribbean and South America – as well as in the dances of American urban blacks – into her choreography.

Like last December’s “Celebration of Dance,”this program will have something for everybody.

Cathy Person, a student in the M.F.A. program in public art and an adjunct instructor in the School of Theatre, will teach an African dance master class; Glenda Arnold, another adjunct instructor, will teach an Afro-Caribbean master class.

Apostolos’ “Dance History” class will also put on a dance lecture and demonstration for the Emeriti College.

On Friday, a “Dance Showcase” will feature about a dozen students from the Dance Theatre performing their own choreography, as well as youngsters from the 32nd Street/USC Magnet School’s “Open Gate Dance.” Apostolos will join dance specialist Victor Sabanz in introducing neighborhood children to the world of movement. School of Theatre instructor Joey Letteri’s tap dance class will also appear.
Here’s the schedule for the week’s activities:
* Monday, April 24, and Wednesday, April 26: African dance masterclass, 1 to 2:30 p.m.; Afro-Caribbean dance master class, 3 to 4:30p.m.

* Tuesday, April 25, and Thursday, April 27: events to be announced.

* Friday, April 28: “Dance Studio Showcase,” 5 to 7 p.m.

Master classes and the showcase take place in the Dance Studio, in Room 207 of the Physical Education Building. For information, call 740-1297.

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