Ruth St. Denis received a rave review by the Province's H.S.B. (H. Sheridan-Bickers) following her January 29, 1915 appearance at the Avenue Theatre on Main Street near Georgia. The 38-year-old dancer was touring with Ted Shawn, whom she had married the previous summer; their combined name, Denishawn, would be used for the first time a week after the Vancouver visit. “A Triumph of Terpsichore” ran the headline, the largest on the page, which was elaborately emblazoned across the top with “At the Local Playhouses - Review and Forecast of Stage”, making theatrical news and reviews extremely easy to spot. These were separate, too, from the numerous moving picture reviews and news, which filled the following page.
Perhaps an idea of the awe that H.S.B. and his colleagues held for highly talented female dancers is found when he writes: “In [St. Denis'] long lithe, sinuous body is incarnate every emotion of God's most wondrous work - woman.”
Fortunately, some facts are also given: there were 20 dance works altogether, of which St. Denis contributed 15, including Radha, The Peacock, Hindoo Snake Charmer, The St. Denis Mazurka and Danse Impromptu. Shawn is dispensed with as “essentially mediocre,” having yet “to learn that it requires more than a chest and 'cheek' to make a real 'premier danseur'.”
Not all the criticism goes Shawn's way, however; H.S.B., who appears to have seen St. Denis previously, dares to remark:
"The only change to be found last night - if one may obtrude an observation without cavilling at an art almost above criticism - was an occasional angularity in her arm actions and less of that sinuousness which she shares with such women as Alla Nazimova, the famous Russian actress."
Thus H.S.B. marshalled his senses for a moment, linking his criticism to his memory of the great Alla Nazimova, who he might have seen during one of her Vancouver appearances. Other than this, he assures us in the Province on January 30 that St. Denis' “dancing was of the kind that chloroforms criticism and leaves one intoxicated with the infinity of one's own imagination.” (next page)
©2006, Dance Collection Danse