St. Denis, Ruth


St. Denis, Ruth
orig. Ruth Dennis

born Jan. 20, 1877, Newark, N.J., U.S.
died July 21, 1968, Los Angeles, Calif.

U.S. modern-dance innovator and teacher.

She was a vaudeville performer before developing her dramatic dance act based on Asian dance forms. From 1906 to 1909 she toured in Europe to wide acclaim. In 1915 she and her husband, Ted Shawn, established the Denishawn dance company and school to present a new choreographic style of abstract "music visualization." The company frequently toured until it disbanded in 1931 when St. Denis and Shawn separated. Her interest in the use of dance in religion led her to found the Society of Spiritual Arts. She continued to perform, teach, and lecture into the 1960s.

* * *

▪ American dancer
original name  Ruth Dennis 
born Jan. 20, 1877, Newark, N.J., U.S.
died July 21, 1968, Los Angeles, Calif.
 American contemporary dance innovator who influenced almost every phase of American dance.

      From an early age Ruth Dennis displayed a marked interest in the theatre and especially in dance. She began dancing and acting in vaudeville and musical comedy shows when she was a teenager, and she appeared in David Belasco's productions of Zaza, The Auctioneer, and Du Barry. While touring in the last play she was reputedly inspired by a cigarette poster featuring an Egyptian scene of the goddess Isis to begin investigating Asian art and dance.

      Dennis took the stage name Ruth St. Denis, and in 1906, after studying Hindu art and philosophy, she offered a public performance in New York City of her first dance work, Radha, together with such shorter pieces as The Cobra and The Incense. A three-year European tour followed. She was particularly successful in Vienna, Austria, where she added The Nautch and The Yogi to her program, and in Germany. Her later productions, many of which had religious themes, included the long-planned Egypta (1910) and O-mika (1913), a dance drama in a Japanese style.

 In 1914 St. Denis married Ted Shawn (Shawn, Ted), her dance partner, and the next year they founded the Denishawn (Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts) school and company in Los Angeles. During that time, St. Denis's choreographic style broadened to include group numbers occasionally derived from Occidental as well as Oriental sources. Among her choreographic innovations were “music visualization”—a concept that called for movement equivalents to the timbres, dynamics, and structural shapes of music in addition to its rhythmic base—and a related choreographic form that she called “synchoric orchestra”—a technique, comparable to the eurythmics of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, that assigned one dancer to interpret the rhythms of each instrument of the orchestra.

      St. Denis and Shawn separated, both professionally and maritally, in 1931, though they never divorced. St. Denis, who retired briefly from public performance, founded the Society of Spiritual Arts and devoted much of the rest of her life to promoting the use of dance in religion. In 1940, with La Meri (Russell M. Hughes), she founded the School of Natya to continue the teaching of South Asian dance. She resumed performing in 1941 with an appearance at Shawn's Jacob's Pillow Festival in Massachusetts, where she continued to appear annually until 1955. Often called the “first lady of American dance,” she remained active into the 1960s, when many of her better-known solos were recorded on film.

      St. Denis had a profound influence on the course of modern dance in America, particularly through Denishawn, which was the first major organized centre of dance experiment and instruction in the country and whose students included Martha Graham (Graham, Martha) and Doris Humphrey (Humphrey, Doris). Prompted by a belief that dance should be spiritual instead of simply entertaining or technically skillful, St. Denis brought to American dance a new emphasis on meaning and the communication of ideas by using themes previously considered too philosophical for theatrical dance. Although she was never concerned with technique for its own sake, her extensive use of Asian dance forms and abstract “music visualizations” encouraged her students to develop other nonballetic movements that became known as modern dance. Her autobiography, Ruth St. Denis: An Unfinished Life, was published in 1939.

Additional Reading
Suzanne Shelton, Divine Dancer (1981), is a biography.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • St. Denis, Ruth — orig. Ruth Dennis (20 ene. 1877, Newark, N.J., EE.UU.–21 jul. 1968, Los Ángeles, Cal.). Maestra y fundadora de la danza moderna estadounidense. Fue artista de vodevil antes de crear su acto de danza dramática basado en bailes asiáticos. Entre… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Saint Denis,Ruth — Saint Den·is (dĕnʹĭs), Ruth. 1878 1968. American choreographer and pioneer of modern dance. With her husband Ted Shawn she founded (1915) the influential Denishawn Dance School. * * * …   Universalium

  • Ruth Saint Denis — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Ruth St. Denis …   Wikipedia Español

  • Ruth St. Denis — (January 20, 1879 – July 21, 1968) was an early modern dance pioneer.Ruth St. Denis founded Adelphi University s dance program in 1938 which was the one of the first dance departments in an American university. It has since become a cornerstone… …   Wikipedia

  • Ruth Saint-Denis — Ruth Saint Denis, de son vrai nom Ruth Dennis, née à Newark (New Jersey) le 20 janvier 1878 et morte à Hollywood le 21 juillet 1968, est une danseuse et pédagogue américaine. E …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Ruth Saint Denis — Ruth Saint Denis, de son vrai nom Ruth Dennis, née à Newark (New Jersey) le 20 janvier 1878 et morte à Hollywood le 21 juillet 1968, est une danseuse et pédagogue américaine. En 1915, elle ouvre à …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Denis — Denis, Maurice * * * (as used in expressions) Burkitt, Denis P(arsons) Diderot, Denis Fustel de Coulanges, Numa Denis Saint Denis St. Denis, Ruth …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • ruth — /roohth/, n. 1. pity or compassion. 2. sorrow or grief. 3. self reproach; contrition; remorse. [1125 75; ME ruthe, reuthe. See RUE1, TH1] Syn. 1. mercy, sympathy. Ant. 1. cruelty. * * * (as used in expressions) Benedict Ruth Ruth Fulton Crawford… …   Universalium

  • Ruth — /roohth/, n. 1. a Moabite woman who married Boaz and became an ancestor of David: the daughter in law of Naomi. 2. a book of the Bible bearing her name. 3. a female given name. /roohth/, n. George Herman ( Babe ), 1895 1948, U.S. baseball player …   Universalium

  • Ruth — (Rūt) ► BIBLIA Mujer moabita. Fue madre de Obed, uno de los antecesores de David. * * * (as used in expressions) Benedict, Ruth Ruth Fulton Crawford Seeger, Ruth Ruth Porter Crawford Ruth Elizabeth Davis Ruth Elizabeth Grable Jhabvala, Ruth… …   Enciclopedia Universal


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.