Ted Shawn Background


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

                                                                                                                                                                                    - Ted Shawn

                                                                                                                                                                               from Brainyquote.com

                                      Image courtesy of thewildreed.blogspot.com

Ted Shawn’s life and past experiences really shaped him as both a person and dancer.  More so than others, he experienced a difficult childhood, losing several close family members.  Once he began to overcome these tragedies and get himself back on his feet, he was diagnosed with a highly serious disease, known as diphtheria.  With the possibility of losing ability of his legs at only 19 years old, dance as physical therapy became an important part of his life.   He then began to develop his modern dance ideals and techniques after his diagnosis. After recovering both physically and mentally, he pursued a profession in dance.

He began his modern dance career by opening a relatively small dance school.  People began to notice and enjoy his style of dance when his company traveled to over 15 cities, offering a variety of performances.  What really sparked his career was the creation of Denishawn, a school of dance founded by Ted Shawn and his wife Ruth St. Denis. Denishawn focused on Ruth’s exotic, mystical movement and Ted’s expertise in male dance movement. Denishawn trained and shaped one of the most famous modern dance pioneers: Martha Graham.

Ted contributed to both a new style of modern dance, as well as a basis of technique.  His artistic sense created a style described as ethnic and masculine.  He had a talent for creating movement that was inspired by American Indians and pioneers.  Avoiding classical music, he used a lot of nontraditional, emotional sounds and melodies.  His movement incorporated ballet and yoga techniques that were developed and created through improvisation.

Although Ted had a great deal of involvement in the creation of modern dance, he is most widely acknowledged for establishing the first all male dance company: Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers.  This was the first time men were seen as more than partners in dance; they were seen as equal in performance as the women.  The start of this all male group inspired others, and widely influenced the idea of men as dancers.


        Image courtesy of frounch.blogspot.com

By Morgan Baetz

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