Denishawn School of Dancing

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Ruth St Denis & Company in a typical oriental style
Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in an Egyptian-style dance

The Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, was founded in 1915 by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in Los Angeles, California.

It taught a range of dance styles, influenced by ballroom dancing, ballet and various types of American and Indian dances.

The school had some notable pupils, including Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Lillian Powell, Charles Weidman, Jack Cole, and silent film star Louise Brooks. The school was especially renowned for its influence on ballet and experimental modern dance. In time, Denishawn teachings reached another school – Studio 61 at the Carnegie Hall Studios.

One source writes:

"The art of dance is too big to be encompassed by any one system. On the contrary, the dance includes all systems or schools of dance. Every way that any human being of any race or nationality, at any period of human history, has moved rhythmically to express himself, belongs to the dance. We endeavor to recognize and use all contributions of the past to the dance and will continue to use all new contributions in the future".[1]

Styles of dance[change | change source]

  • Orientalia: these were the first true Denishawn works. St. Denis invented most of these pieces. They use aspects of East Indian movement, dress and environment (in the form of set design). A particularly famous work from this period is St. Denis's Radha, a mini-ballet set in a Hindu temple in which an exotic woman dances to honor the five senses.
  • Americana: Shawn favoured the cultures of America. His works had music by American composers and portrayed of "American" characters like cowboys, Indians and ballplayers.
  • Music visualizations was inspired by Isadora Duncan's approach to music. Movement was set strictly to music without reading into anything emotionally. If the music swells, the body swells: if the music grows quiet, the body comes to rest. St. Denis's Soaring, with five female dancers, is her most well-known music visualization.
  • Miscellanea: Other routines called "Denishawn divertissements".

References[change | change source]

  1. Sherman, Jane 1983. Denishawn: the enduring influence. Boston, MA: Twayne, p11.

Other sources[change | change source]

  • Shelton, Suzanne 1981. Divine dancer: a biography of Ruth St. Denis. New York: Doubleday.
  • Sherman, Jane 1979. The drama of Denishawn dance. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.