Tag Archives: Ruth St. Denis

St. Denis and Radha

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Presenting a hyperbolization of categories of otherness through mapping markers of race, Orientalism, and sexuality onto the white middle-class female body, Ruth St. Denis’s Radha functions as a site of the condensation and displacement of desire.

In this work, St. Denis achieved a combination of Delsartism’s transcendent spirituality with the Oriental orgasmic in the spectacle of a goddess delirious with her own sexuality who chooses to renounce the powerful pleasure of her body for a chaste union with the transcendent.

This according to “Dancing out the difference: Cultural imperialism and Ruth St. Denis’s Radha of 1906” by Jane C. Desmond (Signs: Journal of women in culture and society XVII/1 [fall-winter 1991] pp. 28–49; reprinted in Moving history/dancing cultures: A dance history reader [Middletown: Wesleyan University press, 2001] pp. 256–270.

Above, St. Denis performing Radha in 1908; below, a documentary contextualizes the work in her career and influences.

Related post: Ted Shawn and Native American dance

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Performing Arts in America 1875–1923

Performing Arts in America 1875–1923, a website of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, captures a glimpse of the beginning of the modern age, when a combination of technological advances and societal freedoms led the way to a new world where—among other things—entertainment for the masses became a thriving industry. The upbeat mood of America was reflected in its theater, its popular songs, the craze for ballroom dancing, and above all in the newest of popular fads, the motion pictures. At the same time, America was forging its own classical culture worthy of competing with its European forebears.

This searchable database presents some 16,000 archival visual and audio materials from the library’s holdings, including sheet music, newspaper clippings, photographs of theater and dance performances, and publicity posters.

Above, Ruth St. Denis in Incense, 1908.

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Dance, Reception, Resources