Choreography for Dick Kattenburg's Tap Dance

Choreography for Dick Kattenburg's Tap Dance

Tap Dance (1936)
Dick Kattenburg
(b. Amsterdam, 1919 - d. Auschwitz, 1944)

Choreography by Donald Byrd, Spectrum Dance Theatre
Commissioned by Music of Remembrance

Premiere date: November 9, 2014 | Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall
Mina Miller, Piano; Kimberly Russ, piano; Shadou Mintrone, tap dancer

Amsterdam-born composer Dick Kattenburg barely had a chance to experience life as an adult before the German occupation shattered the world he knew. Like Anne Frank, only ten years his junior, Kattenburg spent the war years in hiding until his betrayal and arrest. After his first hiding place, with a friend in Utretcht, was betrayed, he scrambled to find other temporary refuges. Kattenburg was arrested in May 1944 and deported to the Westerbork transit camp. From there he was transported to Auschwitz and murdered there shortly after arrival, just shy of his 25th birthday.

Kattenburg studied music theory and violin at the Brussels Conservatory and at The Hague, but was largely self-taught as a composer. We know that he corresponded with composer Leo Smit, since Smit’s response to his technical questions has been preserved.

We might never have known about Kattenburg and his music if not for an amazing chain of serendipity. Kattenburg composed about 30 works, but only the 1937 Flute Sonata was performed in his lifetime. He wrote the sonata for a flutist friend who too was sent to Auschwitz, but she survived and in 2000 offered the manuscript as a birthday present to Dutch flutist Eleonore Pameijer. Pameijer, taken by the music and its history, began to perform the sonata, and four years later Kattenburg’s niece Joyce (the daughter of his sister Daisy, who had survived the war) learned of a concert featuring it. Hoping to discover more about her family, Joyce began to search through her late mother’s possessions. What she found in the attic was a trove of some two dozen previously unknown scores, mostly from between 1936 and 1944.

Kattenburg loved jazz, and his enthusiasm for it is evident in his 1936 Tap Dance for piano four hands with tap dancer or percussion. MOR is grateful to Aleksandra Markovic of the publisher Donemus in Amsterdam for helping us acquire the music for Tap Dance. We’re also indebted to Donald Byrd for the richly imaginative choreography that adds to the magical humor of this remarkable work.