Shawn, Ted

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Shawn, Ted

(Edwin Myers Shawn), 1891–1972, American modern dancer and choreographer, b. Kansas City, Mo. Introduced to dance as physical therapy, he taught ballroom dancing, then married (1914) the dancer Ruth St. DenisSt. Denis, Ruth
, 1877–1968, American dancer, b. Newark, N.J., whose name was originally Ruth Dennis. After her debut (c.1893) she toured with David Belasco. In 1906 she began her recitals of highly imaginative and spectacular dances inspired by the arts and religions of
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. They formed the Denishawn dance company, with schools in Los Angeles and New York, and choreographed interpretive dances based on many cultural traditions. After Denishawn disbanded (1931), he founded Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers, which featured athletic, masculine movement and was instrumental in gaining acceptance for American male dancers. His company's home near Lee, Mass., also hosted the Jacob's Pillow Dance FestivalJacob's Pillow Dance Festival,
summer dance concert series held annually near Lee, Mass., in the Berkshires. The site, originally an 18th-century farm, was purchased by the American modern dancer Ted Shawn in 1930, and three years later it became the home of his Men Dancers
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 (from 1940). Shawn created numerous solos as well as ensemble pieces, including Four American Folk Dances, O Libertad, Labor Symphony, Olympiad, and Kinetic Molpai. He wrote several books on dance, including How Beautiful upon the Mountain: A History of Jacob's Pillow (1947), and an autobiography, One Thousand and One Night Stands (1960).


See biography by W. Terry (1976).

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Shawn, (Edwin Myers) Ted

(1891–1972) dancer, choreographer, dance festival administrator; born in Kansas City, Mo. Intending to study theology, he took up dance at age 18 as a cure for paralysis. Won over to ballet, he debuted in 1912 and after a tour met and married Ruth St. Denis in 1914. They settled in Los Angeles in 1915 and founded the Denishawn School of Dancing (moved to New York City in 1921) and the Denishawn Dancers. They toured throughout the world, taught many who would become leading figures of modern dance in America, and choreographed their own dances; several of Shawn's drew on Native American themes. By 1932 Shawn and St. Denis were separated and he moved to Lee, Mass., where he began a school just for male dancers (1933–40); he also toured with this company. The school was disbanded with the onset of World War II, but in 1941 he established the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival (Becket, Mass.) and built it into an internationally recognized summer school and performance showcase. From 1945 on, St. Denis and he performed together again on special occasions. He gave a solo tour in Australia (1947) and led the Jacob's Pillow Touring Company (1952). He wrote several books on dance, including Dance We Must (1940).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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