Have you ever met someone whom you have read about and heard about? Well, that happened to me in 1951 in San Francisco. I had just started at San Francisco State College (now University) to study education and dance. Our modern dance teacher said there was an opportunity to be an usher at the Curran Theatre for a concert by Ruth St. Denis. Luckily, I was selected and I was able to see this icon of modern dance and receive a signed photograph of her. She was born in 1879, so she was 72 when I saw her performance. Just a few years younger than I am now.
Ruth St. Denis, considered the grandmother of the Dances of Universal Peace, was one of two women credited with founding Modern Dance in America, the other being Isadora Duncan. Their approaches to dance differed in that Duncan sought “the Self in the Universe” while St. Denis sought “the Universe in the Self”.
Ruth St. Denis was the most photographed woman of her time. She was the first American dancer to star in a full-length dance performance. She toured Europe and America for many years as a soloist and with companies, which included the great Hindu musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan.
St. Denis founded Adelphi University’s dance program in 1938, which was one of the first dance departments in an American University. She founded the Society of Spiritual Arts and the St. Denis Religious Art Church. With her husband, Ted Shawn, St. Denis co-founded the Denishawn dance school and company. Some of her notable students were Martha Graham, Doris Humphreys and Charles Weidman.
She died in 1968 at the age of 89.
What a thrill to see this woman dance.
Have you ever had contact with an human icon?