Choreographing the Folk: The Dance Stagings of Zora Neale Hurston
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by Anthea Kraut
Paperback: 312 pages
Most people think of Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) as a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a literary icon fondly remembered as the author of the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. However, many forget that she was also a gifted choreographer whose innovative productions helped transform the landscape of modern dance. Sadly, due to racism, she never received the credit she deserved for her contributions to this then emerging field.
The disrespect she was shown was very similar to the way in which African-American jazz artists were denigrated in their day, while many of the white imitators who arrived in their wake, such as the Gershwins and Tommy Dorsey, were celebrated as cultural geniuses. While seminal jazz greats like Satchmo, Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington may have belatedly gotten their due, the same can't be said for dance where Hurston's name is still never mentioned in the same breath as the Caucasians generally credited with accelerating the acceptance of modern during the period between the two world wars.
Now, thanks to Anthea Kraut, author of Choreographing the Folk: The Dance Stagings of Zora Neale Hurston, the slight has finally been rectified. For, the detail-oriented Professor Kraut, who teaches dance at the University of California ’ Riverside, goes to great pains, here, to re-authenticate Hurston's scores and theatrical stagings, while simultaneously raising suspicions about some of her competitors who undoubtedly benefited from their lack of melanin.
A choreographic legacy restored!