In Dance Anecdotes
, on p. 82 Mindy Aloff quotes critic George Jackson in section called Beyond Technique
The first time I saw Katherine Dunham was in 1947/8, in the student lounge, the Reynolds Club, at the U. of Chicago, where I’d dozed off in an easy chair trying to finish assigned reading—Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Drumming, out of the ordinary on campus at that time, roused me. The sound was insistent yet soft. In the middle of the large room stood a woman, a beautiful woman. She was dressed simply in a skirt suit, the jacket open on (I’m pretty sure) a flowered blouse. The cut and combination of what she wore seemed chic, yet she was a student. As she declared for one and all to hear, she—Katherine Dunham—had just come back from thesis work in Africa and wanted her fellow students to see what she’d found there. And so, after removing her shoes, Dunham began to dance. Remarkable was what she could do with rhythm. She took it into her body, and no matter how sharp and cutting the drum beat, she made it melt and flow. If the rhythm was complex and prickly, she combed it into sensuous strands. Even then, Dunham was a healer. And, she had unavoidable eyes. Margot Fonteyn was a dancer like that; one ended up being caught by her gaze. Photographs of Nijinsky lead to his eyes. It is a distinct gift.