Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ted & Ruth

This past weekend I flew to St. Louis to teach and perform in Angels & Absinthe hosted by Exotic Rhythms Bellydance.  One of the added perks about traveling to teach is that it gives me an opportunity to read.  I've always been addicted to reading, but I rarely have time to read nowadays. So a plane ride often gives me focused time to just get absorbed in a book and enjoy - and I often finish a few books in a single trip.

This trip, I selected Ted Shawn's "One Thousand And One Night Stands", which I had come across a little while ago at a used book store.  I have a fair-size assortment of books on Ruth St. Denis, Shawn's partner and wife (and a huge long-time personal inspiration to me), but this was the first book I came across on him, by him.  I had totally forgotten I bought it, so I grabbed it when I spotted it, and selected some fiction as well, in case I needed a change of pace.  I didn't, I read half on my way out, and completed it shortly before I landed back in Providence.  It was a very enjoyable and fascinating read on Shawn's life and views, while also documenting the birth of American dance in the early 20th century.

It never ceases to amaze me how I seem to pick up books just when they're extremely relevant to what's going on in my own life.  From stories about locations where the Denishawn company toured (several of which students in my workshops had traveled from), to Ted's journey through Algeria and Tunisia in search of the Ouled Nail dancers, and thoughts on spirituality reflected in dance, teaching, performing, and dealing with critics and society - it all resonated throughout my trip.  It lit something within my heart and mind as I headed into the weekend.

Ruth and Ted were really America's first fusion artists/traveling dance company, and they traveled all over the world to study folkloric, regional, spiritual dances and incorporate them into their own inspired dances.  They experienced much success, but also ran into more than their fair share of setbacks, difficulties, and controversy.  Bellydancers often complain about how hard we have it with people's misconceptions - that really is nothing compared to what these pioneers went through.  Actually, all American dancers have a lot to be thankful for, courtesy of Ruth & Ted's hard work. 

No comments:

Post a Comment