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Ruth St. Denis Papers and Addenda: Finding Aid
mssSt. Denis papers  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
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.
Background
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.
Extent
Approximately 1,100 items in 22 boxes + 42 binders and two oversize items.
Restrictions
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.
Availability
Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.