Wednesday, March 2, 2005

2 x 2 x 2

My last two trips to the library (over the course of the last two weeks) left me empty handed. No new microfilm had arrived. . . . This week, however, two loans were waiting for me. I looked at February, 1923 issues of the two newspapers from Vicksburg, Mississippi - the Vicksburg Herald and the Vicksburg Evening Post. And in each I found articles and advertisements related to the Denishawn performance at the Walnut St. Theater.

In his review, George W. Crock of the Vicksburg Evening Post reported that "The audience was not as large as such a super-attraction deserved but the heavy sleet fall and bitter winter weather is largely responsible for that. The extreme cold also prevented the theatre heating plant from doing it's full duty, too and it was somewhat uncomfortable for the dancers in their diaphanous draperies." Nevertheless, by all accounts, the Denishawn dancers went over quite well. TheVicksburg Herald wrote, "The dancing of Miss St. Denis is too wonderful for words. It is the poetry of motion, the art of arts. Ted Shawn is also a wonderful dancer, and is superior to any of the men whom Russo has sent here." The article went on to state in somewhat purple prose, "The young ladies of the company - Martha Graham, Betty May, May Bennett, May Lynn, Lenore Schaeffer, Mary Brooks, are truly exquisite, beautiful fairies, light as thistle-down, living and breathing the dance they interpret." [It's curious that the author of this article refers to Brooks by her given name. Or perhaps they got it wrong. I can't think of another instance when a reviewer referred to "Mary Louise Brooks" throughout her various careers as a dancer, showgirl and actress.]

I also looked at two months of the St. Louis Star, one of the lesser newspapers from the midwestern metropolis. I was hoping to find something on the Denishawn performances in that Missouri city in late 1922 and early 1924. However, all I came up with was brief article and a tiny advert. The St. Louis Stargave extensive coverage to the movies and local theater - but didn't seem concerned about dance. (The Globe Democrat and Post-Dispatch are the "papers of record" for St. Louis - and were far superior in their coverage of the arts. I have already gone through each.)

I did notice, however, that the December 2nd Denishawn performance at the Odeon Theater in St. Louis quite nearly overlapped with a December 3rd engagement by Rudolph Valentino at the Delmonte Theater (see advertisement below). Despite legal threats against him, "The Shiek" did appear onstage, where he spoke for six minutes "before a worshipping throng" and denounced Brooks' future employers, the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. The members of the Denishawn Dance Company most likely missed the event, as they had a December 4th engagement in Indianapolis. (See Emily Leider's fantastic biography of Valentino, Dark Lover, for the story behind this incident.)

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