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Research Guides

Chamber Dance Company Archive: Ted Shawn

A unique collection of video documenting the UW Chamber Dance Dance Company's over 25 year history of performing modern dance classics.

Ted Shawn

American pioneer of modern dance, choreographer, educator, promoter and impresario

 believe that dance communicates man's deepest, highest and most truly spiritual thoughts and emotions far better than words, spoken or written.

Born Kansas City, Missouri, October 21, 1891. Died Orlando, Florida, January 9, 1972.

Ted Shawn left his divinity studies at the University of Denver to become a dancer in the early 1900s. Shawn and his wife, Ruth St. Denis, were intensely interested in exotic and oriental cultures; both sought out existing dance forms from all over the world as the basis for their choreography. A dervish is a member of any various Muslim ascetic orders, some of which carry on ecstatic observances, such as violent dancing and whirling. It follows that Shawn, who was interested in the eclectic, philosophical and idealistic, would be drawn to the dervish as an idea for a dance. Mevlevi Dervish premiered on April 15, 1929 in Carnegie Hall. The next year Shawn began to lead a kind of seminarian life at Jacob’s Pillow, his home in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Jacob’s Pillow became and remains a major dance school and performance center that is the home of Shawn’s choreography.

Watch some of Ted Shawn's works, including OlympiadMevlevi Dervish, and Gnossienne, at the Media Arcade in Vol. 43 of the Chamber Dance Company Archive (DVD UWDP 001 v.43).