The article begins with a mention of Louise Brooks, and ends with a couple of illustrations and a couple of paragraphs focusing on one of Brooks' Denishawn costumes. Brooks joined Denishawn when she was 15 years old, and was a member of its touring company during its 1922-1923 and 1923-1924 seasons. (Brooks leaving home to join Denishawn is also at the heart of a forthcoming film from PBS Masterpiece, The Chaperone, starring Elizabeth McGovern as the title character and Haley Lu Richardson as the teenage Brooks.) The New York Times article (which links to the Louise Brooks Society website), starts this way:
According to the Williams College Museum of Art press office, "Dance We Must: Treasures from Jacob’s Pillow, 1906-1940 explores the contributions of Jacob’s Pillow founder Ted Shawn and the iconic Ruth St. Denis to American modern dance. Gathering over 350 materials, including more than 30 costumes and accessories, over 200 photographs, five original antique costume trunks, and a dozen original artworks from both the Jacob’s Pillow Archives and Williams College Special Collections, the exhibition contextualizes the pioneering work of Shawn and St. Denis within the scope of American art history through artifacts that have never been seen before. Dance We Must will be on view at Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) from June 29 through November 11, 2018."The modern dance tree has abundant roots, and two of its thickest and oldest belong to Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Their Denishawn company and school in Los Angeles, which lasted from 1914 to ’29, toured the world with a new spirit of dance — barefoot and weighted, exotic and spiritual. They were celebrities of their day....As for their students? One was the beautiful, young Louise Brooks. Another, more important for the art form, was the pathbreaking choreographer Martha Graham.
As the New York Times notes, the Brooks’ costume shown above is an authentic dress from the Hopi tribe made of wool and decorated with colorful embroidery. Brooks wore it to great acclaim in a Native American-themed piece, "The Feather of the Dawn" (significantly the first North American Indian ballet ever created for an American audience), in which she was featured opposite Denishawn founder Ted Shawn. Martha Graham thought Brooks stood out in this piece, and so did newspaper critics across the country. The New York Times article has a color close-up of the costume.
In the Teens, Twenties, and Thirties, Denishawn was the leading modern dance troupe in America. Through touring the United States and the world, they brought modern dance to the masses. They also influenced a generation of dancers including Martha Graham, widely considered one of the greatest American dancers of the 20th century. Certainly, Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn deserve greater recognition as modern dance pioneers; the Williams College Museum of Art exhibit is a good start. I, for one, would like to see Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn profiled by PBS as part of American Masters.
To learn more about Louise Brooks and her time with Denishawn, check out THIS PAGE on the Louise Brooks Society website.