Ruth St Denis

(20th January 1879 – 21st July 1968)


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Ruth Denis was born in New Jersey USA, raised on a small farm she was drilled by her mother in physical exercises developed by François Delsarte. This was the beginning of St. Denis’s dance training and was instrumental in developing her technique later in life. In 1894, after years of practicing Delsarte poses, she debuted as a skirt dancer for Worth’s Family Theatre and Museum. From this modest start, she progressed to touring with an acclaimed producer and director, David Belasco, under whom her stage name, “St. Denis”, was created. While touring in Belasco’s production of Madame DuBarry in 1904 she saw a poster, which portrayed the Egyptian goddess Isis enthroned in a temple. This image captivated St. Denis on the spot and inspired her to create dances that expressed the mysticism that the goddess’s image conveyed. From then on, St. Denis was immersed in Oriental philosophies.In 1905, St. Denis left Belasco’s company to begin her career as a solo artist. The first piece that resulted from her interest in the Orient was Radha. This piece was a celebration of the five senses and appealed to a contemporary fascination with the Orient. Although her choreography was not culturally accurate or authentic, it was expressive of the themes that St. Denis perceived in Oriental culture and highly entertaining to contemporary audiences. St. Denis believed dance to be a spiritual expression, and her choreography reflected this idea.In 1911, a young dancer named Ted Shawn saw St. Denis perform in Denver; it was artistic love at first sight. In 1914, Shawn applied to be her student, and soon became her artistic partner and husband. Together they founded Denishawn, here St. Denis served as inspiration to her young students, while Shawn taught the technique classes. They popularised dance as a performing art and trained a whole generation of American dancers, including Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, and Doris Humphreys. Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn were also instrumental in creating the legendary dance festival, Jacob’s Pillow.Although Denishawn had crumbled by 1940, St. Denis continued to dance, teach and choreograph independently as well as in collaboration with other artists. In 1938 St. Denis founded Adelphi University’s dance programme, one of the first dance departments in an American university.Ruth Saint Denis died of a heart attack in 1968, aged 89, at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles. The legacy left behind included not only her repertory of orient-inspired dances, but also students of Denishawn who later became pivotal figures in the world of modern dance.

 

 


Ruth St Denis China/Asia- Exotic solo into Chinese