Year: 2002




Produced and Directed by: Terry Carter

Edited by: Beate Glatved DeCoste

A Production of: Council for Positive Images, Inc.

Commissioned by: The Library of Congress

Genre: Documentary

Plot Summary: This project in development is designed as a 90-minute television documentary on the life and work of Katherine Dunham, pioneer dancer-choreographer and anthropologist. Internationally recognized and honored as one of America's most influential performing artists, Katherine Dunham is credited with having introduced African-Caribbean dance culture to the United States, and subsequently, to Europe and the rest of the world.

Dancing with Life is the story of how one woman's intellect, creativity and boundless energy laid the foundation for universal appreciation of the dance traditions of Africa and its descendant cultures. It is a classic tale of exploration, growth, accomplishment and impact.

When the Dunham Company burst onto the stages of the United States and Europe in the late 1940s and 50s, unleashing the vitality and complexity of African-Diaspora movements upon unsuspecting white audiences, the dynamics and direction of dance theatre were changed forever. Katherine Dunham helped liberate western dance of deeply seated inhibitions. By introducing the strong pelvic movements and sophisticated isolations of African-based traditions, she expanded the vocabulary of dance.

Although Dunham was not the first American dancer or choreographer to experiment with African influences, her company's incredible, decades-long success was unprecedented in securing an international arena and capturing a world audience for such innovation.

In Dancing with Life, Ms. Dunham reminisces about her earliest professional experiences, reflects on her unique methods of anthropological fieldwork and of choreography, and relates how intercultural communication has been a guiding force throughout her life. She reveals her keen sense of humor, her indomitable ambitions, her uncommon philosophy, and her unshakable commitment to humankind.