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St. Denis (Ruth), Photograph Collection on
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Collection Overview
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The collection comprises over 100 photographic prints of Ruth St. Denis, who influenced the development of American modern dance. The photographs feature St. Denis posing alone in costume, with fellow dancers, traveling, and at leisure with her husband and partner, Ted Shawn. Several of the photographs are autographed by St. Denis and some have annotations on the reverse.
Ruth St. Denis was an innovative dancer, choreographer, and instructor who pioneered early forms of modern dance. Born Ruth Dennis in Newark, New Jersey in 1877, she performed in musical comedies and vaudeville shows during her youth. She adopted the stage name "Ruth St. Denis" in 1906 when she achieved success as a dance soloist in New York City. She approached dance as a philosophical and spiritual experience rather than as entertainment, and incorporated Eastern and Western cultural and religious themes into her work. In 1914 she married her dance partner, Ted Shawn, and in 1915 they founded Denishawn, a dance school and company in Los Angeles. Denishawn was one of the first significant schools of dance in the United States, molding young dancers such as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey. The non-ballet movements developed at Denishawn became known as "modern dance." St. Denis also founded the Society of Spiritual Arts, the dance department at Adelphi University, and the School of Natya. She was often called the "first lady of American dance." She died in Los Angeles in 1968.
0.3 Linear Feet (1 box and 1 oversized folder)
Property rights reside with the University of California. Copyrights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. Some of these materials are in the public domain. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
The collection is open for research.