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 Ruth St. Denis

Ruth St. Denis

Birth
Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, USA
Death 21 Jul 1968 (aged 89)
Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Court of Remembrance, wall crypt 3116
Memorial ID 968 · View Source
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Ballerina. A pioneer of modern dance, she is remembered for joining with her husband Ted Shawn to create numerous ground-breaking productions, many of them with Oriental themes. Born Ruth Denis, she was raised on a New Jersey farm and took to dance, specifically routines developed by Francois Delsarte, at an early age due to the strong urging of her mother. Ruth began performing in New York, appearing in Vaudeville revues and in 'dime shows', routines designed to show off the girls' legs, and in 1898 met noted Broadway producer David Belasco. The impresario gave her the name "St. Denis" and cast her in "Zaza", "The Auctioneer", and "Madame DuBarry", and while on a tour to Buffalo Ruth spotted one of the cigarette cards popular at the time which depicted the Egyptian goddess Isis in a dance pose, igniting an interest in Oriental art forms which was to be lifelong. In 1905 Ruth broke away from Belasco and formed her own ensemble, then in 1909 presented "Radha", an Indian motif ballet set to the music of Leo Delibes' "Lakme". In 1911 Ruth met dancer Ted Shawn (1891-1972), then in 1914 married him and founded Denishawn, the first troupe dedicated specifically to modern dance. Ruth was to develop two then-unique concepts, 'music visualization' which links movement with musical structure and 'synchotic orchestra' which ties a single dancer's steps to an individual instrument; over the years the couple traveled throughout America as well as to Europe and Asia, presenting cutting-edge fare while training a virtual "Who's Who" of avant garde ballet including Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Lillian Powell, and others. Ruth and Shawn broke-up in 1931, though they never divorced and did continue occasional joint projects such as the Jacob's Pillow Festival, so named for its home, the Massachusetts farm which Shawn bought in 1931. In 1938 she founded a dance department within Adelphi University's School of Arts, the first program of its type in the country, then in 1939 published "Ruth St. Denis: An Unfinished Life". By 1940 Denishawn was essentially a thing of the past, though Ruth continued teaching at her Hollywood studio and taking occasional choreographic assignments. In the 1960s she was filmed performing some of her old dance steps, movements she was quite capable of making despite being well-along in years. She died of a heart attack. Denishawn's story is told in the 1976 "Soaring", 1979's "The Drama of Denishawn Dance", and the 1986 "Denishawn: The Enduring Influence", three works penned by Jane Sherman (1908-2010), once the group's youngest artist and at her demise its last survivor. Today, the Jacob's Pillow Festival remains in operation.

Bio by: Bob Hufford


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 968
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Ruth St. Denis (20 Jan 1879–21 Jul 1968), Find A Grave Memorial no. 968, citing Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .