Ruth St. Denis

Recorded at Jacob's Pillow: 
September, 1949

Ruth St. Denis appeared in more than a dozen Pillow seasons between 1940 and 1964 (including the performance seen here, when she was seventy), and her portrait still hangs beside the proscenium in the Ted Shawn Theatre. Raised in a Bohemian environment, Ruthie Dennis (1879-1968) studied ballroom and skirt dancing in Somerville, New Jersey, and first performed professionally as a variety act in 1894 at Worth's Family Theatre and Museum in New York. By 1906 with Radha, St. Denis had developed the essence of her distinctive dance style. She built a stunning career as a soloist and, in 1914, acquired a professional and personal partner in Ted Shawn. A year later they opened Denishawn which, as a school and company, nurtured leaders of the next generation: Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Jack Cole. Her works are occasionally revived at the Pillow, including Cynthia Gregory's memorable 1982 performance of Brahms Waltz and Liebestraum, two works that were always presented together. Jess Meeker's live accompaniment for Gregory's performance was added to the silent film seen here in order to approximate the original audience experience.

Dance Title: Liebestraum
Choreography: Ruth St. Denis (1922)
Music: Franz Liszt (Played by Jess Meeker, added 2011)