We are pleased to announce that we’ve received AHRC funding for Dunham’s Data: Katherine Dunham and Digital Methods for Dance Historical Inquiry! The project begins August 2018 and runs through 2021. Over the next three years, we will be using this blog space to post notes on our process, progress, and the kinds of things we are finding out along the way.
In terms of where we are coming from, Kate and Harmony are co-authors of the first essay on digital analytics for dance history, “Mapping Movement on the Move: Dance Touring and Digital Methods.” Dunham’s Data extends our previous development and implementation of archival databases and digital cartography in projects including Dance in Transit, Movement on the Move, Moving Bodies Moving Culture, and Mapping Touring.
Together—and with international academic partner projects and UK industry partnerships with One Dance UK’s Dance of the African Diaspora and the Victoria & Albert Museum—we are using Dunham’s Data to investigate the use of data analysis in dance history through a project that centres on the case study of African American choreographer Katherine Dunham (1909-2006).
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. Through the specific line of research regarding Dunham, the project addresses 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.
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. She was also an extraordinary self-archivist. 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.