Features | January 31, 2014

In 1924, modern dance pioneer Ruth St. Denis assembled all of her “Denishawners” in an empty theater in New York City for announcements about the upcoming season. Seventeen-year-old Louise Brooks, a rising star in the company, came in a side door and slipped into a crushed velvet seat. Her late arrival didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, Miss Ruth, as her students called her, had summoned the meeting in part to address those who were not living up to her holistic approach to dance, which required hours of barre and ballet exercises, after-hours readings, spiritual development and adherence to Denishawn decorum in dress, diet and behavior. At the time, Brooks had told an interviewer, “Miss St. Denis is very strict. She won’t let us smoke or eat candy or stay up late or anything,” while her peers complained privately, “We do nothing but work and dance.”

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