Ruth St Denis (Ruth Dennis)

American dancer

A major figure in the development of modern dance and one of the earliest performers for Edison's Kinetoscope. Ruth Dennis was born in Newark, New Jersey, studying dancing as a child and making her professional debut at the age of sixteen. It was at this early stage of her career that she was filmed by Edison, billed in the December 1894 Kinetograph Company Bulletin as the 'Champion High Kicker of the World'. Less known is the fact that around the same she was also filmed for Charles Chinnock's imitation Kinetoscope. She continued to make a haphazard living as a dancer in vaudeville and in musical comedies until 1905 when she choreographed and produced her first ballet, Radha. Although, according to Agnes de Mille, she 'dressed up as an Egyptian cigarette ad ... and gave Oriental mysticism a new lease of life by undulating in a roof garden restaurant', she was intensely interested in Eastern culture and dance forms. With her husband Ted Shawn she founded the Denishawn School of Dancing in 1915, developing such leading modern dancers as Martha Graham and Charles Weidman. Ruth St Denis and the Denishawn Dancers appeared in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916).

Barry Anthony