Lionel Popkin in "Ruth Doesn't Live Here Anymore," which will be presented by Abrons Arts Center. Photo by Steve Gunther.
Legacies can be tricky things. The facts may stay the same, but as the gap widens between then and now, the interpretations of these facts often evolve.
Here’s a fact: Ruth St. Denis (1879-1968), along with her husband Ted Shawn, trained and inspired dance luminaries like Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and, perhaps most notably, Martha Graham. Here’s another: Enthralled with Eastern societies, St. Denis created dances evoking exotic locales such as India, Egypt, and Japan that riveted American audiences. These two facts should assure her a prime position in the modern dance canon.
It’s not that straightforward, though. Contemporary ethos winces when confronted by the reality of St. Denis’ work: In what seems a blatant act of cultural appropriation, St. Denis diminishes rich and varied cultures to a handful of gestures and a pretty costume.
Her legacy is complicated to say the least. Stirred in part by St. Denis, choreographer Lionel Popkin investigates legacy and appropriation in the evening-length “Ruth Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” which receives its New York premiere at Abrons Art Center as part of Travelogues, curated by Laurie Uprichard.
To read the balance of my preview, please visit The Dance Enthusiast.