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Pearl Primus Choreographer and Company

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*‘’Why do I dance? Dance is my medicine. It’s the screen which ease for a while the terrible frustrations common to all human beings because of race, creed, or color are invisible. Dance is the first with which I fight the sickening ignorance of prejudice.” Pearl Primus

* Pearl Primus’s style of dance was a style that many artists in modern times could relate to. Pearl was infusing other cultural dances with modern and ballet movement. Pearl was looking to give the African and Caribbean cultures a voice and respect in the world of dance. She achieved her goal by bringing African-American social issues to the forefront using the art of dance. She put the voice of African-Americans on the stage in a sincere and personal way. Using poems and images of African-American sufferings in the South became a way of conveying the harsh social and political times. *Primus, who founded her own dance company in 1946, was best known for her “primitive” dances. She was well-known for her vitality and her physical daring, which were characterized by leaps up to five feet in the air.

During this time Primus often based her dances on the work of black writers and on racial issues. In 1944, she interpreted Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” (1944), and in 1945 she created “Strange Fruit”, based on the poem by Lewis Allan about a lynching. “Hard Time Blues” (1945) is based on a song about sharecroppers by folksinger Josh White. In 1949, Primus received a grant from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to study dance in Central and West Africa. In the years that followed, she also studied and danced throughout the Caribbean and the southern United States. She drew her subjects from a variety of black cultures and figures, ranging from African stonecutters to Caribbean religious practices to rural life in the American South.

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