Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ted Shawn and male dancing

Ted Shawn, the dancer and choreographer who was later named the ‘Father of Modern Dance’ was born on October 21st.

Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers in Dances of the Ages, ca. 1938; photo Shapiro Studio.

Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers in Dances of the Ages, ca. 1938; photo Shapiro Studio

Ted Shawn is the first prominent male voice in the history of modern dance and had a profound influence in establishing dance as a valid activity and career choice for men. In order to accomplish that, he introduced in his dance and movement elements that are stereotypically tied with men and masculinity. He created a new movement vocabulary full of athletic and dynamic elements aiming to increase mens’ interest in dance.
‘I came to a point where I felt that something had to be done… a real crusade… a real battle to establish dance as a valid career for men.’

7 facts:
  • He started dancing when he got heavily sick with diphtheria –he used dance as a means to strengthen his muscular system that was weakened by the disease.
  • With his wife and artistic collaborator Ruth St Denis, they founded Denishawn school, which had a profound influence in the evolution of modern dance. Amongst Denishawn students were some of the great innovators of dance history –Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman etal.
  • In the beginning of his carreer he was a symbol of male beauty and was considered ‘the most handsome man in America’.
  • After his breakup with St Denis, he created the first all-male dance company and for seven years they toured around the country and presented their works wherever they got a chance: high schools, university auditoriums, squares and small theaters, aiming to bring modern dance to the general public. The company was disbanded in 1940, mainly because most of the young dancers were enlisted in the American army.
  • He is the founder of Jacob’s Pillow, one of the biggest dance festivals in America.
  • He was knighted by the King of Denmark, for his efforts with the Royal Danish Ballet.
  • He is one of the first choreographers to leave a rich literature legacy: during his career he wrote nine books and numerous articles on dance issues.
ted shawn quote

See also:

Books by Ted Shawn.

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