Enter the world of Jacob’s Pillow founder Ted Shawn and visionary modern dancer Ruth St. Denis. Over 350 objects from the Jacob’s Pillow Archives, including bejeweled and embroidered costumes pulled from the antique touring trunks, photographs, props, backdrops, and original artworks offer a glimpse into the early careers of this pioneering couple. The Denishawn Company, founded by Shawn and St. Denis in 1914, ushered in a new era of modern American dance. Breaking with European traditions, their choreography connected the physical and spiritual, often drawing from ancient, indigenous, and international sources. St. Denis’s and Shawn’s Orientalism and cultural appropriation raise questions of imperialism, colonization, and racism. The exhibition covers the first three decades of the twentieth century charting the movements of St. Denis and Shawn from Los Angeles to Asia to Becket, Massachusetts.
Exhibition support in honor of Norton Owen, Director of Preservation, Jacob’s Pillow Archives, generously provided by Joan and Jim Hunter. Research assistance by Eve Rosekind MA ’18, Will Hernandez, MA ’19, and Jesse Sentivan. Exhibition design by David Gürçay-Morris, Associate Professor of Theatre. A special thank you to Pam Tatge, Director, Patsy Gay, Associate Archivist, and Norton Owen of Jacob’s Pillow. Thank you to Williams faculty, and WCMA staff, Sandra Burton, Lipp Family Director of Dance and Senior Lecturer in Dance, Erica Dankmeyer and Janine Parker, Artists-in-Residence in Dance, for their expertise and advice; Adi Nachman, Exhibitions and Programs Manager for initiating contact between the two institutions and producing the opening events; Nathan Ahern, Chief Preparator, for original display furniture fabrication, and Cara Borelli for graphic design.
The exhibition also includes generous loans from the Hon. Stephen P. Driscoll; Patsy Gay; National Museum of Dance, Saratoga Springs, New York; Norton Owen; and Chapin Library and Special Collections, Williams College.