Friday, March 19, 2010

Denishawn Dancer Jane Sherman

Jane Sherman has died. The dancer and author passed away on March 16th.

Sherman (1908 - 2010) was one of the last - perhaps the last - living members of the early / first generation / original Denishawn Dance Company. She was also a kind of unofficial historian of Denishawn and its founders Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Sherman authored a handful of books on the subject, and also appeared in various documentaries.

One of the documentaries she appeared in was Louise Brooks: Looking for Lulu. In it, Sherman spoke about Louise Brooks' two season tenure with Denishawn prior to her entry into silent film.

Sherman's time with Denishawn did not overlap with that of Louise Brooks. They missed each other missed each other by about a year. (Had Brooks not have been kicked out of Denishawn, they likely would have toured the Far East together.) Nevertheless, Sherman was aware of her famous predecesor and wrote about Brooks and her small but noted history with Denishawn in various works.

Sherman was the author of various articles and books including Soaring: The Diary of Letters of a Denishawn Dancer in the Far East, 1925-1926 (Wesleyan, 1976), The Drama of Denishawn Dance (Wesleyan, 1979), Denishawn: The Enduring Influence (Twayne, 1983), and Barton Mumaw, Dancer: From Denishawn to Jacob's Pillow and Beyond (Wesleyan, 2000). I have each. Each are excellent.

A little more on Sherman and her life can be found on the arts meme website and on the ballet talk website. Sherman's death was announced by Norton Owen, Director of Preservation, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

[The image below shows members of the Denishawn Dance Company during the 1922-1923 season. Martha Graham is center, Louise Brooks is second from the right.]


  1. Here is Jane Sherman's New York Times obit:

  2. Both Brooks and Sherman applauded the costumer, so, here's to Pearl Wheeler for the "Soaring suit" (for the dance of that name) Sherman is wearing. Easily overlooked. ... I say that's Lenore Scheffer in the group at water's edge.

    Sherman was a pupil at the Denishawn school in New York City in (or from?) 1922, so maybe she and Brooks crossed paths there? Anyway, I would not bet on-- I mean, speculate about Brooks not getting kicked out of Denishawn before Sherman joined the company; I would wish the centenarian had put in a couple more years in the twentieth century!

    The 2008 season opening gala at Ted Shawn's baby, Jacob's Pillow (1933), coincided with Jane Sherman's 100th birthday. I hope they gave her a, um, shout-out. They did have her up three weeks later for a "Pillow Talk" (discussion), "Jane Sherman's Century", and celebrated "with tributes and a few choice words from the feisty centenarian herself".

    I've only seen The Drama of Denishawn Dance, but it's a treasure for descriptions of the dances [Brooks performed], and for a photo of Weidman, Graham, and Brooks dancing together in a small piece AT LB'S DEBUT. That photo should have wider circulation. ... Rochester has had a Garth Fagan dance company since 1973. Maybe the old Corn Maiden attended a performance?


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