Denishawn school

The Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, founded in 1915 by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in Los Angeles, California, helped many perfect their dancing talents and became the first dance academy in the United States to produce a professional dance company. Some of the school's more notable pupils include 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 location as well - Studio 61 at the Carnegie Hall Studios.

Initially solo artists, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn began collaborating on work in 1914. At the time, St. Denis was preparing for a tour of the southeastern region of the United States, and needed a male partner to help present new ballroom dances. Shawn, who had admired St. Denis since seeing her perform in 1911, auditioned for and was awarded the role. The resulting tour featured the partnered pieces along with individual works from St. Denis and Shawn respectively.

Eventually, the working relationship between Shawn and St. Denis turned romantic. The two artists fell in love and, lovers living together being considered unorthodox at this point in history, were married on August 13, 1914. Denis, reticent about marriage, had the word "obey" deleted from their wedding vows and declined to wear a wedding ring. Their "honeymoon" consisted of a second joint tour - accompanied by a small company of dancers - from Saratoga, New York to San Francisco, California. A new collection of dances, including more ballroom variations, St. Denis' solos and Shawn's famous Dagger Dance, was showcased. For promotional purposes, the dancing group was referred to as the St. Denis-Shawn Company.

It was not until February 6, 1915, on yet another tour, that the term "Denishawn" actually surfaced. At a performance in Portland, Oregon, a theater manager promised eight box seats to whoever could dream up the most creative name for the latest St. Denis-Shawn ballroom exhibition. The unchallenged, winning title was "The Denishawn Rose Mazurka." While the name as a whole didn't warrant much popularity, the "Denishawn" portion attracted audience members and the press - to such an extent that the namesake couple chose to officially change their company name from the St. Denis-Shawn Company to Denishawn Dancers.

With this new name in town, Shawn and St. Denis began brainstorming ways to expand their contributions to the dance world. Shawn was the first to suggest opening a school - a dual-purpose institution that could be a successful source of income and in turn pass on the founders' ideas of new Modern dance. St. Denis and Shawn opened their Denishawn School in 1915, and together formulated a guide for both their pedagogy and choreography, an excerpt of which is quoted below:

"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".

This page was last edited on 4 January 2017, at 08:41.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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