Ruth St. Denis (January 20, 1879 – July 21, 1968) was an early modern dance pioneer.
St. Denis founded Adelphi University's dance program in 1938 which was one of the first dance departments in an American university. It has since become a cornerstone of Adelphi's Department of Performing Arts.
Read more about Ruth St. Denis, free from the University of Pittsburgh.
Her early works are indicative of her interests in exotic mysticism and spirituality. Many companies currently include a collection of her signature solos in their repertoires, including the programme, “The Art of the Solo,” a showcase of famous solos of modern dance pioneers. Several early St. Denis solos (including “Incense” and ”The Legend of the Peacock”) were presented on September 29, 2006, at the Baltimore Museum of Art. A centennial salute was scheduled with the revival premiere of St. Denis' "Radha," commissioned by Countess Anastasia Thamakis of Greece. The program's director, Mino Nicolas, has been instrumental in the revival of these key solos.
One of her more famous pupils was Martha Graham, who attended Ms. St. Denis' school of dance, Denishawn, that she had started with her husband, Ted Shawn. Doris Humphrey, Evan Burrows Fontaine and Charles Weidman also studied at Denis Shawn, and Graham, Humphrey, Weidman and the future silent film star Louise Brooks all performed as dancers with the Denishawn company. Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn were also instrumental in creating the legendary dance festival, Jacob's Pillow.
For many years, Denis taught dance at a studio in Hollywood, California just north of the Hollywood Bowl. In 1963 she teamed with Raymond D. Bowman to bring the first full-length Balinese Shadow Puppet play to the United States. The performance was held at her studio and lasted more than 8 hours.
Denis was inducted into the National Museum of Dance C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame in 1987.