Dance Claimed Me: Pearl Primus: A Review of the Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus

By Harris, Daryl L. | Journal of Pan African Studies, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Dance Claimed Me: Pearl Primus: A Review of the Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus


Harris, Daryl L., Journal of Pan African Studies


The Dance Claimed Me: a Biography of Pearl Primus by Peggy & Murray Schwartz (New Haven: Yale

University Press, 2011, pp. 324; ISBN 987-0-300-15534-1).

Pearl Primus, dancer, choreographer, activist and scholar, could not have been more aptly named--several times. Born Pearl Eileene Primus in 1919 (sources vary) in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Dr. Primus (as students and colleagues called her)/Miss Primus (as many dancers still call her/ Mna (as others were invited to call her: "mother who did not birth you") was, like the gem, valued for her luster. She was precious and valuable, "a virtuous or highly esteemed person; a fine example or type." Even the earliest, now obsolete ocular-related definitions of "pearl" apply to her as a lens focusing on the best of our cultures and the worst of our society. This perspective is from the classical Latin word "primus," meaning first. Lists of "firsts"--like being declared a man by a Watusi chief, or being invited home to dinner by a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (p. 219)-can be both tedious and problematic, but Omowale ("Child Returned Home," the name the venerated Oni of Ife, spiritual leader of the Yoruba), was irrefutably one of a kind. Peggy and Murray Schwartz caringly cast this Pearl of great price before us in their The Dance Claimed Me: a Biography of Pearl Primus.

There is a surprising paucity of detailed documentation about Pearl Primus. The sketchy accounts that do exist rarely go into the depths of her personal battles or the breadth of her achievements in the arts and in education. While The Dance Claimed Me gives an unprecedented basic biographical accounting of "who, what, when, where, how" and even multiple "whys," these details are mere portals into the true life of Pearl Primus, the true premise of the book. Peggy and Murray Schwartz spent many intimate hours with Miss Primus, particularly during her later years. They acknowledge that the book was taking shape and evolving since 1995 with conscious dedication since 2003 (p. 6).

In the spirit and tradition of the West African griot, and consistent with the transcendent spirit of Miss Primus and her life, the Schwartzes succinctly state that the subject of the book is how she "went beyond" to create "another perspective" (p. 2). The Dance Claimed Me goes beyond the basic facts to reveal the person, Pearl Primus.

Following the tone-setting "Introduction," the book is divided into eleven chapters that chronicle Miss Primus's life from her birth in Laventille, a poor neighborhood in Port of Spain, to her death in her New Rochelle, New York, home and the scattering of her ashes off the easternmost tip of Barbados. "The ashes were released and formed themselves in a straight line -pointing straight to Africa" (p. 247). The acknowledgment section then precedes two appendices titled "Pearl Primus Timeline," and "Interviews." In the "A Note on Sources and Documentation" section the authors briefly describe the variety of sources upon which they relied, including their own personal knowledge and experiences. The "Notes," "Works Cited," and "Index" sections conclude the book. An exciting, compact 16-page photo gallery is placed in the middle of the book between pages132-133. These photos are particularly helpful in transporting the reader into the world of the book--"the dance," the Pearl.

The titles of the chapters concisely reveal their contents. The first chapter, "From Laventille to Camp Wo-Chi-Ca," discusses Miss Primus' life from her birth in Trinidad through her working as a dance counselor at a rural New Jersey camp (Camp Wo-Chi-Ca) in the early 1940s. The social environment at the camp supports the interracial bonding that is at the core of much of her future life and work. It is here where she enters a circle of left-wing artists who help to shape American culture in the mid-20th Century. However, while artistically invigorating, these associations will later cause her problems. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Dance Claimed Me: Pearl Primus: A Review of the Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.