Scope and arrangement
The Ruth St. Denis Papers document Ruth St. Denis' personal and professional life from 1915 to 1958. They consist of Ruth St. Denis' autobiographical material; writings; information pertaining to the Denishawn era; post-Denishawn choreographic projects; music scores; business records; and projects and organizations.
The collection was received as a gift from Ruth St. Denis along with the Ruth St. Denis Letters [(S) *MGZMC-Res. 32], which comprise the personal and professional correspondence of Miss Ruth from 1914 to 1958. Portions of the Ted Shawn Collection [(S) *MGZMC-Res. 31] are closely related to the St. Denis Papers and Letters, and the three should be used in conjunction with one another.
Ruth St. Denis' autobiographical material is divided into three sections: her journal, history letters, and miscellaneous materials. Miss Ruth's personal journal, which she had hoped to publish, begins with the year 1927 and concludes with 1958. It includes writings regarding both her personal and professional life, and sections were used in her autobiography, An Unfinished Life(1939).
The history letters, which are arranged chronologically (1934-1954), were written by Ruth St. Denis to keep people informed of her activities and plans. Copies were sent to her close friends and associates.
The miscellaneous autobiographical material includes writings by Ruth St. Denis about her life. There is a detailed account of her trip to the Orient, an outline of An Unfinished Life,a scrapbook which includes sketches and notes about her work at Adelphi College, and other miscellaneous writings, many about her religious beliefs. The items date from 1919 to 1959 and are arranged chronologically. Many of the materials dated before 1939 appear to have been used as a basis for sections of An Unfinished Life.
The writings are divided into four sections: addresses, essays, and lectures by Ruth St. Denis; addresses, essays, and lectures by other people; poetry by Ruth St. Denis; and poetry written to Ruth St. Denis. Miss Ruth's addresses, essays, and lectures are arranged alphabetically by title. There are approximately sixty works, some of which were published, covering such topics as religion, the art of dance, oriental dance, the relationship of dance to the other arts, women, and world affairs.
Other people's addresses, essays, and lectures are arranged alphabetically by the author's last name. There are approximately forty works, many of which were written by close associates of Ruth St. Denis, including William H. Bridge, Jack Cole, Thelma Fisher, Ted Shawn, and Forrest Thornburg. Topics include: Ruth St. Denis, art, drama, dance, and religion.
Poetry by Ruth St. Denis comprises two folders of poems which are arranged alphabetically by title. Poetry written to Ruth St. Denis is arranged alphabetically by the author's last name. Again, many of the authors are close associates of Ruth St. Denis, including Ada DeLachau, Edna Guy, Ruth Harwood, Lucy Lampkin, and John Martin.
Materials pertaining to the Denishawn era are divided into three sections: choreographic notes, technique, and schools. There are choreographic notes for approximately 195 Denishawn dances, including: “Bach's Inventions,” “Brahm's Waltz,” “Egyptian Suite,” “Frohsinn,” “Kinetic Molpai,” “Negro Spirituals,” “Radha,” “Soaring,” “Street Nautch,” and “The Yogi.” The notes are arranged alphabetically by dance title, and when the choreographer (Ruth St. Denis and/or Ted Shawn) is known, it is indicated on the folder list. In some cases, there are musical scores for the dances. These are filed in Section V of the collection.
The section on Denishawn technique consists of written descriptions of the exercises, barre work, center work, combinations, movement studies, and exercises for ethnic techniques which were taught in Denishawn classes. Also included in this section are descriptions of dances and classwork for children. Items are arranged in the order listed above. There is sheet music in Section V to accompany some of the exercises.
The Denishawn school material, which dates from 1920 to 1933, includes information on courses offered; school proposals and organizational plans for branch schools; student biographies; financial records; teacher contracts; and brochure layouts. Items are arranged chronologically.
Ruth St. Denis' post-Denishawn choreographic projects are arranged alphabetically by title. There are descriptions of ballets, choreographic notes, and production arrangements for approximately twenty-five works, ranging from short dances, to pageants, to full-evening ballets. Included are notes for Miss Ruth's “Arcadia,” “Ballet of Soul,” “Freedom,” “Light of Asia,” “The Prophetess,” and “Wisdom.”
The music scores are arranged alphabetically by title. There are approximately forty-five works and some unidentified fragments, most of which were used to accompany the choreography of St. Denis and Shawn during Denishawn, although there are also some post-Denishawn works. Choreographic notes for eleven of the compositions, including “Allegresse,” “Brahm's Waltz,” “Garland Plastique,” “The Goldfish,” “Japanese,” “Jewel Dance,” “Moszkowski Waltz,” “The Sacred River,” “Scarf Dance,” “Serenata Morisca,” and “Viva Faraon,” are located in Section III. In addition, there is music for the Denishawn classroom exercises which are also described in Section III.
Ruth St. Denis' business records are divided into three sections: professional materials; financial materials; and miscellaneous materials. The professional materials, which relate to Miss Ruth's career, span the years 1904 to 1958 and include booking arrangements, program drafts, publicity, and chronologies of professional appearances. The financial materials include Miss Ruth's bank statements, contracts, bills, and budgets from 1913 to 1963. Items in both the professional and financial sections are arranged chronologically.
The miscellaneous materials in the business section consist of calling cards; envelopes; names and addresses; lists of photographs; awards; membership cards; and the business records of Ruth Emma Hull Denis. The items are arranged as listed above.
The final section of the Ruth St. Denis Papers is titled projects and organizations. It contains proposals and descriptions of plans, functions, and activities for approximately eighteen organizations which Miss Ruth was involved with. Some of the organizations, such as the Creative Arts Colony, the Ruth St. Denis Foundation, and the Society for Spiritual Arts, were founded by Ruth St. Denis and thrived for several years, while others never got beyond the planning stages. The projects, which are interfiled alphabetically with the organizations, include arrangements for Miss Ruth's films, suggested dialogues for tape recordings, and proposals for theaters and magazines.
One Denishawn tunic was received with the collection and is listed at the end of the folder list. It was a gift from Gertrude Shurr who wore it when she performed “Sonata Pathetique” with the Denishawn company.
(removed to costume collection, see folder list)
When the Ruth St. Denis Papers were received, they included a section of clippings and programs. These have been removed from the collection and have been placed in the clipping and program files of the Dance Collection.
- RSD Ruth St. Denis
- TS Ted Shawn
- misc. miscellaneous
- n.d. no date
The Ruth St. Denis papers are arranged in eight series:
Includes descriptions of ballets, choreographic notes, and production arrangements.
Sheet music (some hand-written) for choreographic works of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn.