The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus

by Brand: Yale University Press

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  • Pearl Primus (1919-1994) blazed onto the dance scene in 1943 with stunning works that incorporated social and racial
    protest into their dance aesthetic. In The Dance Claimed Me, Peggy and Murray Schwartz, friends and colleagues of
    Primus, offer an intimate perspective on her life and explore her influences on American culture, dance, and education.
    They trace Primus's path from her childhood in Port of Spain, Trinidad, through her rise as an influential international
    dancer, an early member of the New Dance Group (whose motto was "Dance is a weapon"), and a pioneer in dance

    Primus traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, Israel, the Caribbean, and Africa, and she played an important
    role in presenting authentic African dance to American audiences. She engendered controversy in both her private and
    professional lives, marrying a white Jewish man during a time of segregation and challenging black intellectuals who
    opposed the "primitive" in her choreography. Her political protests and mixed-race tours in the South triggered an FBI
    investigation, even as she was celebrated by dance critics and by contemporaries like Langston Hughes.

    For The Dance Claimed Me, the Schwartzes interviewed more than a hundred of Primus's family members, friends, and fellow
    artists, as well as other individuals to create a vivid portrayal of a life filled with passion, drama, determination,
    fearlessness, and brilliance.