Ruth St. Denis, a beautiful young woman born Ruthie Denis in New Jersey in 1878–the “St.” was a later affectation–found her thematic inspiration in 1904 when she chanced upon a poster for Turkish cigarettes featuring a picture of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Her choreography thereafter was based largely upon mythological and mystical subjects and rituals, which she researched carefully and interpreted in an exotic, mysterious, and sexy manner. Stephanie Clemens, founder and artistic director of both the Doris Humphrey Society and Momenta, the modern dance company in residence at Oak Park’s Academy of Movement and Music, has in recent years been restoring classic works by the founding mothers and fathers of modern dance: native Oak Parker Humphrey, Humphrey’s longtime partner Charles Weidman, and the extraordinary St. Denis. In 1993 Clemens and Karoun Tootikian, a member of St. Denis’s troupe in the 1940s and today head of the Ruth St. Denis Foundation in Los Angeles, were invited to restore several St. Denis dances for a modern dance festival in Sao Paolo, Brazil. This weekend the two are again collaborating on a celebration of the dancer and her work: Tootikian (who once baby-sat Clemens) will share personal reminiscences of St. Denis and her husband and partner Ted Shawn, after which Clemens will perform some of Denis’s early dance solos–White Jade, Kashmiri Nautch, The Spirit of Incense, The Cobras, and Brahms Waltz/Liebestraum. Friday and Saturday at 8 in the auditorium of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State; $8-$15. Call 708-848-2329 for tickets and info.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo, Anne Bradley.