This collection contains the papers of Ruth St. Denis
(1879-1968) an American modern dancer and co-founder of the Denishawn School of
Dance, chiefly dating from the 1930s-1970s and consisting of scrapbook binders, photographs, audiovisual materials, correspondence,
newsletters, and ephemera.
Materials in the collection reflect the work of St. Denis and her husband and dance partner, Ted Shawn, related to
dance and dancers. There is also much material about St. Denis' effort to
have her studio and school become a non-profit entity and her desire to create an
artist colony in Hemet, California.
Ruth St. Denis (born Ruth Dennis) was born in 1879 in New Jersey. She began dancing
as a child. Her early training included Delsarte technique, ballet lessons with the
Italian ballerina Maria Bonfante, social dance forms and skirt dancing. She began
her professional career in New York City in 1892, where she worked as a skirt dancer
in a dime museum and in vaudeville houses. In 1898, Ruth was noticed by David
Belasco, a well-known and highly successful Broadway producer and director. He hired
her to perform with his large company as a featured dancer, and was also responsible
for giving her the stage name "St. Denis." Under Belasco's influence, Ruthie Dennis
became Ruth St. Denis, toured with his production of "Zaza" around the United States
and in Europe, and was exposed to the work of several important European artists,
including the Japanese dancer Sado Yacco and the great English actress, Sarah
Bernhardt. St. Denis began studying Hindu art and philosophy, and 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. 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.
Approximately 1,100 items in 22
boxes + 42 binders and two oversize items.
The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to
quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such
activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is
one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services
Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.