The Life Of Ruth St. Denis

1192 Words3 Pages

The Life of Ruth St. Denis

In 1879, on a small New Jersey farm, Ruth Dennis was born. She was the daughter of Ruth Emma Dennis, an extremely independent, determined, and educated woman. Her Mother was a highly trained physician. At a very early age, St. Denis was encouraged to study dance. Her training included social dance forms and skirt dancing, lessons from Maria Bonfante, and Delsarte technique.

St. Denis's professional career began in 1892. In New York City, she worked as a skirt dancer in dime museums and vaudeville houses. "Dime museums featured "leg dancers" (female dancers whose legs were visible under their short skirts) in brief dance routines."# In that type of atmosphere, St. Denis was worked to the bone and forced to perform her routine at least ten times a day. However, in 1898, David Belasco noticed the young Ruth during one of her vaudeville performances. Belasco was a very successful and well known Broadway producer and director. He hired Ruth to perform as a dancer in his company. He was also responsible for giving her the stage name "St. Denis." The popularity of Ruth St. Denis exploded in the United States and Europe as she toured with his production of "Zaza." During her touring, she was introduced to many influential artists, such as Japanese Dancer Sado Yacco and English actress Sarah Bernhardt.

St. Denis's creative juices really began to flow after meeting these artists. She became extremely interested in Eastern cultures, such as Japan, India, and Egypt, and their forms of dance and drama. Bernhardt's overdramatic acting style was also very influential to St. Denis. Ruth loved how the tragic fate of Bernhardt's characters always took center stage. After 1900, "St. Denis began formulating her own theory of dance and drama based on the techniques of her early training, her readings into philosophy, scientology, the history of ancient cultures,"# and the work of artists like Yacco and Bernhardt. A few years later, during a tour with Belasco, she saw an advertisement for Egyptian cigarettes. The ad was simply an image of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Nevertheless, this simple image aroused St. Denis's imagination and she immediately began reading about Egypt. Her interest in India soon followed.

Open Document