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Ruth St. Denis papers, 1880-1968
1031  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Restrictions on Use and Reproduction
  • Restrictions on Access
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance/Source of Acquisition
  • Processing Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Related Material
  • UCLA Catalog Record ID

  • Title: Ruth St. Denis papers
    Collection number: 1031
    Contributing Institution: UCLA Library Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 79.2 linear ft. (157 boxes, 8 cartons, 17 flat boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1880-1968
    Abstract: Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968) was a modern dance pioneer who combined spirituality and dance. Throughout her career, St. Denis’s dances were greatly influenced by eastern culture and religion. In the later years of her career, Christian themes were also explored and depicted in her works. Her papers include handwritten journals, personal and professional correspondence, essays, poems, lectures, choreographic notes, musical scores, dance programs and ephemera, photographic prints, reel-to-reel audio recordings, books from her personal library, and business materials. The collection spans the majority of her life, though the bulk of collection derives from the 1920s to her death in 1968.
    Language of Materials: Materials are in English.
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.
    Creator: St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Restrictions on Access

    Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.
    Boxes 1-3 available on microfilm in Library Special Collections. Originals not available for consultation due to fragile condition. Microfilm must be used. Original audio reel-to-reels must be digitized prior to use.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of Item], Ruth St. Denis papers (Collection 1031). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    • Ruth St. Denis, purchase, 1966.
    • Brother St. Denis, purchase, 1968.
    • Gift of Buzz St. Denis, 1969.
    • Catherine Barnes, purchase, 1987.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Zoe Macleod in 2012-2014 in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Jillian Cuellar. Additional processing assistance provided by Lindsay Chaney. Processing of this collection was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program.

    Biography

    Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968) was a modern dance pioneer who combined spirituality and dance. Throughout her career, St. Denis’s dances were greatly influenced by eastern culture and religion. In the later years of her career, Christian themes were also explored and depicted in her works. Born Ruth Dennis in New Jersey, she later added “St.” as part of her stage name. St. Denis’s training began as a child, with the practice of physical exercises developed by François Delsarte. This greatly influenced her future style of dance. As a teenager, she appeared in Broadway musicals and was a protégé of David Belasco. Inspired by a poster advertising Egyptian Deities Cigarettes with an image of the Egyptian goddess Iris, St. Denis began choreographing dances that expressed the goddess’s mysticism. The first dance piece that brought her into the circuit of higher art was Radha, which she first performed in 1906. This dance portrayed the story of Krishna and his love for a mortal maid. St. Denis’s intention was to create a work that would serve as a spiritual expression of eastern cultural themes.
    In 1914, St. Denis married her dance partner, Ted Shawn. The following year, they founded the Denishawn School of Dance in Los Angeles, California, one of the first schools devoted to “aesthetic dancing.” In 1920, the school moved to New York City. Aesthetic dancing involved spiritual, natural movements. Some of Denishawn’s illustrious pupils were Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Louise Brooks, the future film star. The Denishawn dancers toured Asia for fifteen months in 1925, performing dances inspired by Asian and Egyptian cultures.
    In 1927, St. Denis founded the Society of Spiritual Arts, focusing on the religious aspects of dance. In 1931, St. Denis and Shawn separated maritally, but did not legally divorce. Though they dissolved Denishawn, St. Denis remained close to Shawn throughout her career. In 1934, St. Denis founded the Church of Divine Dance at her studio in Los Angeles, which, like the Society of Spiritual Arts, established dance as a means of worship. Here, she led dance masses and rituals. In 1938, she founded the first college dance program in an American university at Adelphi University in New York State.
    St. Denis died of a heart attack in Hollywood, California in 1968. As a pivotal figure of modern dance, she left behind an esteemed legacy and several dance companies have honored her by performing her pieces. She was inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 1987, and was among the first to be distinguished by the Dance Heritage Coalition in its America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures http://www.danceheritage.org/treasures.html.

    Scope and Content

    This collection is comprised of the personal papers of Ruth St. Denis. It includes St. Denis’s handwritten journals, which begin at the turn of the century and continue until weeks before her death, personal and professional correspondence, essays, poems, lectures, choreographic notes, musical scores, dance programs and ephemera, photographic prints, reel-to-reel audio recordings, books from her personal library, and business materials.. The collection spans the majority of her life, though the bulk of collection derives from the 1920s to her death in 1968.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Series 1: Journals, 1900s-1968
    Series 2: Correspondence, 1886-1968
    • Subseries 2.1: List of contacts
    • Subseries 2.2: Greeting cards
    • Subseries 2.3: Correspondence, 1886-1968
    Series 3: Writings, 1900s-1968
    • Subseries 3.1: Essays and manuscripts, 1910s-1960s
    • Subseries 3.2: Poems, 1910s-1960s
    • Subseries 3.3: Lectures and speeches, 1930s-1960s
    • Subseries 3.4: Writings of others, 1910s-1960s
    • Subseries 3.5: Inventories of writings, 1920s-1960s
    Series 4: Performance and dance materials, 1910s-1960s
    • Subseries 4.1: Choreography and performance note, 1910s-1960s
    • Subseries 4.2: Performance research/resources, 1910s-1960s
    • Subseries 4.3: Education and dance center materials, 1940s-1960s
    • Subseries 4.4: Sheet music, 1920s-1960s
    Series 5: Media, 1900s-1960s
    • Subseries 5.1: Photographs, 1900s-1960s
    • Subseries 5.2: Negatives
    • Subseries 5.3: Reel to reel audio recordings, 1950s-1960s
    Series 6: Clippings, ephemera, and publications, 1920s-1960s
    • Subseries 6.1: Clippings and publications, 1920s-1960s
    • Subseries 6.2: Ephemera, 1920s-1960s
    Series 7: Books from personal library
    Series 8: Business materials, 1920s-1960s
    • Subseries 8.1: Financial materials, 1920s-1960s
    • Subseries 8.2: Medical materials, 1920s-1960s
    • Subseries 8.3: Legal materials, 1920s-1960s
    • Subseries 8.4: Business notes and memos, 1920s-1960s
    • Subseries 8.5: Lists and inventories, 1920s-1960s
    Series are arranged chronologically.

    Related Material

    Reflections on a life in the dance. Ruth St. Denis, interviewee.   UCLA Oral History Department interview, 1965. UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
    Elyse Robert collection on Ruth St. Denis, 1932-1991 (Collection 1735) . UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
    Ruth St. Denis Collection.  Adelphi University Archives and Special Collections, Garden City, NY.
    Photograph Collection on Ruth St. Denis. MS-P070.  Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 3222245 

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968--Archives.
    Choreographers--California, Southern--Archival resources.
    Diaries.
    Women dancers--California, Southern--Archival resources.