L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ted Shawn - early photographs

Ted Shawn (October 21, 1891, Kansas City, Missouri — January 9, 1972, Orlando, Florida), born Edwin Myers Shawn, an important male pioneer of American Modern dance.  With his wife, Ruth St. Denis, he formed a dance company and the influential  Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts.  After both the school and the marriage foundered, he formed an all male company, his goal being to help bring acceptance of the male dancer in the United States.  In 1933 Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers had their premiere performance at Shawn's farm in Massachusetts.  With the dance company came the formation of Jacob's Pillow, a theatre, school, and retreat.  This eventually led to the internationally known Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, which exists to this day.

With Ruth St. Denis
With Ruth St. Denis


  1. That first photo, Stephen!
    This dancer is in the costume for the Golden Idol variation, from that greatest of all Russian ballets: La Bayadere. The fact that he could shoulder such production speaks volumes of his artistry and knowledge as a danseur noble. What a level!
    Here's a clip from YouTube of the Golden Idol variation:


    and of the 3rd act variation called Kingdom of the Shades:


    Beautiful post! Thank you so much.

    1. Actually, Maria, I don't think Shawn had any classical/ballet training. If he did, he never progressed enough to be able to perform in La Bayadère. The first photo shows him in the "Cosmic Dance of Shiva".

      Here's a little bit of it:


  2. Thanks for the clip! You're so right! There's nothing in his dancing that would make him look like a classical ballet performer. Big oops...and thank you for the correction.
    What fooled me also was that other photo showing him in the costume of The Afternoon of a Faun, that piece of choreography that immortalized Nijinsky.
    I had never heard of Shawn before and now, thanks to you, I do. And he was right in wanting to promote male dancers. In classical ballet, before Nureyev, they were just a simple "accesorio" to the ballerina.
    Thank you, Stephen.

    1. Shawn was "working all the angles" in his early career, he tried on every variety of "exoticism". Most of it looks rather silly to us now, but it was apparently important in the development of modern dance. As for his Faun impersonation, you should see the pictures of Rudolph Valentino in the Faun guise; unlike Shawn's approximation, Valentino was much closer to Nijinsky's version - but his "costume" was actually little more than body paint.

  3. Thanks for reminding me of Valentino, Stephen!
    I can still picture my mother's sisters almost swooning over him. I always suspected my mother did too, secretly...
    My father on the other hand was very open about his fascination with Marilyn Monroe. I always heard him say that just by looking at her photos would give him "taquicardia paroxistica a repeticion." I was still very young and that phrase would terrify me.

    And then, when I grew up, I had many chances of seeing Nureyev on stage. And guess what: it was my turn to feel that syndrome my M.D. father loved to tease my mother with...

    1. Haha! We all find someone to swoon over.... : )