“Sitting at Ms. Katherine Dunham’s feet and hearing her stories was awesome, she reminded us of our social responsibility as young artists – and we answered the call in our performances. As an activist/artist and co-founder of MuWara Dada, a black dance troupe whose choreography made social commentary on the times, meeting and studying with Ms. Dunham and the Senegalese dancers at PATC, let me know that no boundaries were to be placed on my artistic expression and social activism .” – en.wikipedia.org
Katherine Dunham and Charles Moore
The Dunham/Moore Effect
“Training with Charles Moore was a continuation of my experience with Ms. Dunham. Retaining the originality of African dance through meticulously sculpted mini-performances, we expanded our cultural and artistic awareness and repertoire while building unbelievable core muscularity and outer strength. Charles taught us the power and seemless connection between African dance and the African drum – where the drum sound is internalized and the body becomes one with its rhythm, textures and colors. He was as tough as Ms. Dunham herself!” – en.wikipedia.org
…After training at the famed Tommy Sutton Dance Studio (now Mayfair Academy) and for four years at Harlan High School, as a member of the modern dance ensemble Orchesis. Marguerite graduated – and with scholarship in hand, headed to Southern Illinois University where she majored in sociology and minored in black studies. She continued her pursuit of dance, and at SIU studied for a time, with professor Grant Gray, a former Martha Graham dancer. There, Marguerite co-founded the African/modern dance troupe – MUWARA DADA. The young group traveled from SIU to East St. Louis, Illinois (via a van the university generously loaned the company) to study with Katherine Dunham, who, at the time, sponsored African dancers from Senegal to teach at PATC her performing arts and culture training center. “Sitting at Ms. Dunham’s feet and hearing her stories was awesome, she reminded us of our social responsibility as young artists – and we answered the call in our performances. Her example affirmed my decision to co-found an African American dance troupe during the 60’s, one that made social commentary on that era. And, as a scholar and artist, she let me know that no boundaries were to be placed on my artistic expression.” Already a civil rights activist by the age of 13 (as an early high school student, Marguerite participated in Civil Rights protest events including the now famous Willis Wagons March documented in the movie ‘63Boycott –and a rally led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966), Ms. Dunham’s edict was a powerful and poignant affirmation. Traveling around the Midwest, to racial hotbeds like Cairo Illinois, and institutions such as Marion State Penitentiary, with accompaniment that included African drummers and the music of activist artists such as Nina Simone, MUWARA DADA used dance as a tool for social justice commentary.
Photo Above: I auditioned for both the cheerleading squad and Orchesis the dance company. Dance was my first love, so the decision was easy. Here I am with two of my fellow members
Photos above l-r: me, Joy Lockridge and Edwina Davis performing at Southern Illinois University. Edwina Davis and I co-founded the dance troupe MuWara Dada and we traveled around the southern Illinois region performing social commentary choreography informed by our individual dance training – and our collective studies with Ms. Dunham.
…Graduating from Southern Illinois University with B.A. and M.S. degrees, she headed to New York City where she studied and guest performed with Charles Moore (Dancers and Drummers of Africa), a former Dunham dancer. “A continuation of my Dunham training, and retaining the originality of African dance through rigorously sculpted mini-performances, we expanded our cultural and artistic awareness and repertoire while building unbelievable core muscularity and outer strength. Charles taught us the power and seamless connection between African dance and the African drum – where the drum sound is internalized and the body becomes one with its rhythm, textures and colors. He was as tough as Ms. Dunham herself!”
…Trained as a dance/movement therapist with a clinical tenure at Manhattan Children’s Psychiatric Hospital, Marguerite drew from her background and experience to create a curriculum-based arts integration theory and methodology, Performance Pedagogy®. Workshops, seminars, presentations and performances are designed for diverse youth and adult populations and are undergirded by Performance Pedagogy strategies.
…Several years later she would also meet and study ballet with another Dunham dancer, Livinia Williams at her studio in Brooklyn. Marguerite is currently a member of the Chicago Bulls Swingin’ Senior Dance Troupe and the International Dance Council (CID).
Photo Above: The pregame rehearsals with the Chicago Bulls Swingin’ Senior’ Dancers are always exhilarating. The adrenaline rush of performing before 20,000+ people, especially at our age, is life affirming and flat out fun!
Photo Above: I love roller skating and have been doing it – off and on – since my preteen years. Chicago’s skating culture, with its style, grace and innovation, is a repository for African and African American dance culture. For me, the feeling is akin to flying on wheels.