Guide to the Photograph Collection on Ruth St. Denis
Processed by Cyndi Shein; machine-readable finding aid created by Cyndi Shein
Special Collections and Archives
The UCI Libraries
P.O. Box 19557
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, California 92623-9557
Phone: (949) 824-3947
Fax: (949) 824-2472
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Title: Photograph collection on Ruth St. Denis
Collection Number: MS-P070
0.3 linear feet
(1 box and 1 oversized folder)
Languages: The collection is in English.
University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.
Irvine, California 92623-9557
Abstract: The collection comprises over 100 photographic prints of Ruth St. Denis, who influenced the development of American modern
dance. The photographs feature St. Denis posing alone in costume, with fellow dancers, traveling, and at leisure with her
husband and partner, Ted Shawn. Several of the photographs are autographed by St. Denis and some have annotations on the
Important Information for Researchers
The collection is open for research.
Property rights reside with the University of California. Copyrights are retained by the creators of the records and their
heirs. Some of these materials are in the public domain. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the
Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Photograph Collection on Ruth St. Denis. MS-P070. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California.
Processed by Cyndi Shein, 2008.
Ruth St. Denis was an innovative dancer, choreographer, and instructor who pioneered early forms of modern dance. Born Ruth
Dennis in Newark, New Jersey in 1877, she performed in musical comedies and vaudeville shows during her youth. She adopted
the stage name "Ruth St. Denis" in 1906 when she achieved success as a dance soloist in New York City. She approached dance
as a philosophical and spiritual experience rather than as entertainment, and incorporated Eastern and Western cultural and
religious themes into her work. In 1914 she married her dance partner, Ted Shawn, and in 1915 they founded Denishawn, a dance
school and company in Los Angeles. Denishawn was one of the first significant schools of dance in the United States, molding
young dancers such as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey. The non-ballet movements developed at Denishawn became known as "modern
dance." St. Denis also founded the Society of Spiritual Arts, the dance department at Adelphi University, and the School of
Natya. She was often called the "first lady of American dance." She died in Los Angeles in 1968.
Collection Scope and Content Summary
The collection comprises over 100 photographic prints of Ruth St. Denis, primarily featuring St. Denis posing in costume alone
or with fellow dancers. Many photographs include her husband and partner, Ted Shawn. Some of the dances portrayed include
The Peacock, and
The Nautch. The collection includes cabinet cards, professionally produced black-and-white prints, and personal snap shots of St. Denis
traveling and at leisure. Several of the photographs are autographed by St. Denis and some have annotations on the reverse.
The collection also includes a handwritten index, compiled by a previous owner, providing a brief description of the subject
of each print. Not all photographs are numbered and not all items listed in the index are represented in the collection.
The photographs in this collection are numbered on the reverse and arranged in rough numerical order.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
St. Denis, Ruth, 1880-1968 -- Archives.
Shawn, Ted, 1891-1972.
Genres and Formats of Materials
Photographic prints -- 19th century.
Photographic prints -- 20th century.
Box : Folder 1 : 1
Index of photographic prints created by a previous collector
Box : Folder 1: 2-7
Box : Folder FB-30 : 6
Oversized photographic prints