Ruth St. Denis, by John Lindquist circa 1915
American Dance Pioneers
Ted Shawn and Ruth St., Denis
Founders of the Denishawn Dance Company
one of the first modern dance companies in the United States.
Often called the "First Lady of American Dance", Ruth St. Denis was inarguably one of the most influential dancers of the day. She begin her career in 1892 at a burlesque club in New York City. By 1897 she was featured on Broadway. She toured around the states and Europe, where she met a lot of influential artists. Eastern cultures and art forms intrigued her, and she started adding them to her movements, sets and costumes.
After working a few years as a solo artist. Ruth met and hired Ted Shawn, a stage dancer, and his partner, Hilda Beyer, who added a range of popular dance forms to the act. In 1914 St. Denis and Shawn became dance partners, married and formed the Denishawn Dance School and Company in Los Angeles. Among the students were Martha Graham, Doris Humphreys, and Charles Weidman. The company toured widely until around 1931, when the company and marriage dissolved.
Shortly after Ted Shawn formed the first all male dance company the Men Dancers at Jacob's Pillow, in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts as the headquarters. He later establish Jacob's Pillow as the longest-running annual dance festival in America.
The Men Dancers were known for their outdoors graphic staging that echoed the popular Deco style of the day. They were persuaded to embrace the outdoors as a backdrop for their photography sessions by John Lindquist, who shot some the most famous photographs of the day, which are widely sought by collectors.
Ted's company had a winter studio in Eustice, Florida, near Barton Mawmu's family home. Tom Reese dropped by on occasion.