Article by Caroline Haller
American modern dancer Ruth St. Denis was born on January 20th in 1879. Born in Newark, New Jersey, St. Denis is considered a pioneer of the modern dance style. In an unorthodox manner, St. Denis incorporated Egyptian and Hindu Mythology and Eastern cultures into her dances. Using her travels, she was able to incorporate all the learning into her dance. As someone with little technical training in dance, she was unencumbered by dance technique at the time. Her company, Denishawn, founded with her husband and fellow dancer Ted Shawn, taught many of the most influential dancers of the 20th century. For instance, Doris Humphry and Martha Graham both studied with St. Denis.
Modern dance and abstract art have a lot in common! Both of these movements designated a break away from the traditional forms of art and dance. This freedom laid the framework for contemporary art and modern dance today! So, we owe a lot to St. Denis as a trailblazer who wasn’t afraid to try the new and unexpected!
In honor of St. Denis’s 144th birthday, I decided to feature 5 artworks from Art Dealer Street that are influenced by dance or movement!
1. Dance like there’s nobody watching, Selene, 2021
Selene is from the Netherlands and her abstract acrylic paintings are both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally moving. Ruth St. Denis would have loved the slogan “Dance like There’s Nobody Watching.” When a dancer improvises or dances without shame, raw artistic talent can be honed. Movements could be created that no one would ever have thought to do.
Aside from the title, this textured metallic painting embodies the effervescence that St. Denis herself embraced. In Dance like There’s Nobody Watching, two movements of acrylic collide like two flowing bodies dancing.
Follow Selene on Instagram: @selenes.art
2. Searching for the Perfect Dance Partner, John Keaton, 2019
Born in Pennsylvania, John Keaton’s eclectic paintings are a mix of abstract and figurative works. The swirls in the painting relay movement, while two figures emerge which are created from brightly colored geometric shapes. These two abstract figures move towards each other. They are searching for the perfect dance partner, as the title implies. In fact, Ruth St. Denis found her perfect dance partner in Ted Shawn, a dancer she met in 1911. They were married three years later and founded Denishawn, a highly influential modern dance school.
3. Georgian Pomegranate Dance, Lena Romanovskaya, 2021
Contemporary painter Lena Romanovskaya’s brightly colored canvases are whimsical depictions of life in a somewhat surrealist fashion. Romanovskaya’s painting depicts an Eastern European country folk dance native to the country of Georgia. At Denishawn, students were encouraged to study ethnic and folk dances as well as gymnastics. St. Denis herself constantly took inspiration from non-western sources, finding beauty and truth in ritual dances.
Follow Lena on Instagram: @el_rom_art
4. Dance Moves, Barron Holland, 2021
Studying and working out of Germany, contemporary artist Barron Holland creates semi-abstract paintings with explosions of bold and neon colors in geometric shapes. Once the inspiration or theme of a dance was chosen, St. Denis would choreograph the dance moves that made up the piece. Sometimes soft and flowing, sometimes quick and frantic, St. Denis’s dance moves were unique and her dances are still performed today!
5. Legato, Allan Linder, 2022
Allan Linder is an American artist who lives and works in NYC. Although perhaps not directly influenced by dance, Linder’s Legato has a lot in common with modern dance. Like a dance created and choreographed, Legato takes influence from music and the emotions portrayed in it. In the abstract shapes, I can see Ruth St. Denis’s movement pattern or see her skirt twirling as she moves. Music and dance are intertwined in a perpetual cycle of inspiration.
Follow Allan on Instagram: @allan_linder