You go, Ruth & Ted! Denishawn revisited

Dance · Theater
It’s time to show some respect to Mom and Dad. In the lovable, but mildly dysfunctional family that is American modern dance, we kids all descend from the same parents. Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn were two brave souls who saw, then sought, a world beyond their respective birthplaces in rural New Jersey and ...

Show some respect! for Martha Graham … and Jack Cole 5

I was intrigued to learn, while doing research, that Jack Cole, a great dance pedagogue, instructed his pupils as follows: “Jack asked us to stand when he entered the dance studio, like Martha Graham‘s students,” one of Cole’s late-life students at UCLA told me in an interview. Cole was long an admirer of Graham with ...

Thank you, Robert Evans, for ‘Serpico’ scene at Lewisohn Stadium

Architecture & Design · Dance
In this snippet from Serpico (1973), fellow cops Tony Roberts and Al Pacino haggle in the eerie ghost town of a grand structure where so much New York art and culture — famously, summer concerts by the New York Philharmonic — met an avid audience. It’s the 8,000-seat-capacity Lewisohn Stadium on the campus of City ...

What was so ‘faux’ about Miss Ruth?

For years I have read critiques that Ruth St. Denis, by all reckoning along with Isadora Duncan the matriarch of modern dance, staged ‘faux,’ or non-authentic, ethnic choreography. Her lack of performative integrity caused her artistic offspring — Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and Jack Cole — to rebel. But what does that mean? ...

A house tinged by antisemitism: Denishawn 2

Excerpted from: Humphrey, Doris, “Doris Humphrey: An Artist First,” an autobiography edited and completed by Selma Jeanne Cohen (Wesleyan University Press, Middletown CT), 1972, pp 61-62. The summer of 1928 Charles [Weidman] and I were teaching the classes at the Carnegie Hall studio, while Pauline [Lawrence] played piano. The students were stimulated by our enthusiasm ...

Edna Guy: her race kept her from dancing with Denishawn

Three years after Tamiris premiered her first Negro Spirituals, Edna Guy and Hemsley Winfield collaborated to stage the First Negro Dance Recital in America on 29 April 1931. With tickets priced from one to four dollars, spectators at the Theatre in the Clouds, an intimate space located on the top floor of the Chanin Building ...

Miss Ruth in the Valley 4

Ruth St. Denis, featured in a newspaper story on elderly fitness, strikes a Denishawn pose for a photographer. Verso text: “Pictured are Frankie Van, owner of Frankie Van’s Health Club, 3717 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City, along with famous modern dancer Ruth St. Denis. Ms. Denis once lived in the Valley and operated a school ...

Denishawn could not hold her down, Louise Brooks

Dance · Film
Actress/dancer/flapper-provocateuse Louise Brooks made her Denishawn company debut in 1922, when the company had already relocated from Los Angeles to New York. Brooks was shown the door by company matriarch Ruth St. Denis and after playing dozens of bit parts in Hollywood movies, hit it big as bad-woman “Lulu” in G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box in ...

Miss Ruth strikes a Denishawn pose in “The Peacock” (1914)

Dance · Visual arts
A photographer’s dream model, the exotic Ruth St. Denis habitually struck a dramatic pose for the camera. Fifty years later, in the San Fernando Valley, she was doing the same thing. Ruth St. Denis, “The Peacock” 1914, photo by J.D. Toloff, Evanston, IL

This was Denishawn

We’re looking forward to spending an evening  — picnic and free music concert — at outdoor-amphitheater Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles in MacArthur Park on June 12. Does everyone know the rich dance history of that neighborhood, whose prior name “Westlake” derived from the beautiful urban lake that the park surrounds? Read this, first, from the ...