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History of Modern Dance : Doris Humphrey, Katherine Dunham, Lester Horton

Year 11

Doris Humphrey Foundation

Doris Humphrey (1895 – 1958) was born in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, on October 17, 1895. Humphrey enjoyed an eclectic childhood exposure to dance and music that ranged from the traditions of classical ballet, Bach, and piano lessons through clog dancing and vaudeville, to expressive movement with the inspiring educator Mary Wood Hinman.

Your Dictionary

One of the first modern dance choreographers, American Doris Humphrey (1895-1958) played a large role in determining the course of modern dance in the United States. While Martha Graham was a contemporary whose career lasted longer and had a broader influence, Humphrey, an early abstractionist, like George Balanchine, had an equally important role in developing twentieth-century modern dance through her choreography for the ensemble.


The Katherine Dunham Museum houses Miss Dunham’s outstanding collection of symbolic and functional art, including more than 250 African and Caribbean art objects from more than 50 countries.

Dance Magazine- Lester Horton

The Lester Horton technique constructs some of the best human skyscrapers in the dance world. And like good building design, the Horton technique's emphasis on flat backs, pelvic hinges, and "lateral T's" produces a long-muscled, powerhouse dancer--something not easily toppled.

Library of Congress

Timeline of Katherine Durham- Katherine Mary Dunham is born on 22 June 1909 in a Chicago hospital. Her father, Albert Millard Dunham, is black; her mother, Fanny June Dunham, is a woman of French-Canadian and American Indian heritage.


Stephanie Clemens, founder of the Academy of Movement & Music in Oak Park, has an encyclopedic mind when it comes to Doris Humphrey. One of the mothers of modern dance, Humphrey was born in Oak Park and went on to create some of the most iconic dances in American history.

Video excerpts from the 1940's shot at Mills College. Doris Humphrey and dancers demonstrate technique movements.

The Annual International Authentic Katherine Dunham Seminar seeks to train new generations of Dunham dancers. The seminar is a space where the dancers and scholars are mentored by the elders, those who danced for and with Ms. Dunham. First generation mentorship is a key component of the seminar and through this, her legacy will continue.

This video kicked off the Horton Demonstration at Theater Showcase 2015

The History Makers

Legendary dancer, choreographer and anthropologist Katherine Dunham was born June 22, 1909, to an African American father and French-Canadian mother who died when she was young. At an early age, Dunham became interested in dance. However, she did not seriously pursue a career in the profession until she was a student at the University of Chicago.

Dance Australia

Katherine Dunham Dunham, who died at the age of 96 [in 2006], was an anthropologist and political activist, especially on behalf of the rights of black people. She was a remarkable woman, one of the first black American women to go to university, and a pioneer in dance anthropology.


Lestor Horton

Lester Horton (January 23, 1906 – November 2, 1953) was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana.  As a young boy, Horton was fascinated by the American Indian, which later inspired him to study Native American dance and influenced his movement style.