St. Denis, Ruth

St. Denis, Ruth sānt dĕnˈĭs [key], 1877–1968, American dancer, b. Newark, N.J., whose name was originally Ruth Dennis. After her debut (c.1893) she toured with David Belasco. In 1906 she began her recitals of highly imaginative and spectacular dances inspired by the arts and religions of Egypt, India, and East Asia. She performed in Europe (1906–8) and in the United States (after 1909), exerting a widespread influence on modern dance. With the dancer Ted Shawn, whom she married in 1914, she founded the influential Denishawn, a company and schools in Los Angeles and in New York City (1920). A divergence in their views after 1931 led her to found (1940) a separate school, while he formed (1933) the Men Dancers Company at Jacob's Pillow (see Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival). Her dances include Radha, Incense, Cobras, and Nautch.

See her autobiography (1939). See study by S. Shelton (1981).

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