Ted Shawn

Person
Alternate Names:
Edwin Shawn
Dates
1891 - 1972
Biography
Edwin Myers Shawn was born on October 21, 1891 in Kansas City, Missouri, and grew up in Denver, CO. While studying to become a minister, Shawn suffered a bout of diphtheria at the age of 19, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. On the advice of his physician, he took up dance as a form of physical therapy. Dancing cured Shawn's paralysis and left him with a passion that would guide and direct him for the rest of his life. 

Although Shawn's first dance experience was with a Metropolitan Opera ballerina and he achieved some success as part of an exhibition ballroom team, it was meeting Ruth St. Denis in 1914 that would set his artistic life in motion. They were married that same year. 

During the next 15 years, the activities of their Denishawn Company and School changed the course of dance history; most of today's modern dancers trace their ancestry to Denishawn. It was Shawn who first recognized Martha Graham's potential, and he was instrumental in shaping the early careers of Charles Weidman, Doris Humphrey and Jack Cole. While St. Denis provided most of the creative sparks ("I can inspire like Hell" was her own assessment of her talents), Shawn had the business sense to make Denishawn a coast-to-coast success. 

Shawn and St. Denis separated in 1930 and this also brought about the dissolution of the Denishawn Company. With the purchase that same year of a rundown farm in the Berkshires known as Jacob's Pillow, Shawn laid the groundwork both for his revolutionary company of men dancers and America's oldest dance festival. In March 1933, Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers gave their first, historic, all-male performance in Boston. By May 1940 when Shawn disbanded the group, the Company had danced for over a million people in all of the United States, in Canada, Cuba and England, having challenged and irrevocably changed the course of American dance. For the final three decades of his life, Shawn became a major impresario, bringing dance to mainstream America through the theater and school at Jacob's Pillow. To promote his principle of the importance and universality of dance, Shawn introduced countless foreign companies to American audiences, provided opportunities for promising young artists, and trained countless students in a full range of dance styles. Shawn orchestrated premieres by both the established and emerging talents of his day including Agnes de Mille, Anton Dolin, Pearl Lang, Merce Cunningham, Anna Sokolow, Alvin Ailey, and Robert Joffrey. 

There are a number of "firsts" achieved by Ted Shawn during his lifetime:
  • The first American man to achieve a world reputation in dance
  • Conceived, choreographed and appeared in one of the first dance films, the Thomas Edison Company's Dances of the Ages in 1912
  • The first American dancer to be awarded an honorary degree by an American college
  • The first male dancer to be listed in Who's Who in America.

Shawn was honored with the Capezio Award (1957), the Dance Magazine Award (1970) and he was knighted by the King of Denmark for his efforts on behalf of the Royal Danish Ballet. Posthumously, Shawn was named as one of America's Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. 

In spite of declining health, Shawn remained at the helm of Jacob's Pillow until his death in 1972 at the age of 80. For most of his career he encouraged his students to call him "Papa" and his legacy as the artistic father for generations of dancers and teachers suggests that "Papa" was a very apt name indeed. 
Source of Biography
Norton Owen
Pillow Significance
founder of Jacob's Pillow
Related Productions
0 Brother Sun And Sister Moon (dancer)
Abduction from the Seraglio, The (dancer)
An American Ballet: Hell on Wheels (dancer)
Bajour, The (dancer)
Bajour, The (dancer)
Ballroom Dances of the Nineteenth Century (dancer)
Barcarolle (dancer)
Barcarolle (dancer)
Barcarolle (dancer)
Boston Fancy-1854 (dancer)
Boston Fancy-1854 (dancer)
Chlamys Dance (dancer)
The Cosmic Dance of Siva (dancer)
The Cosmic Dance of Siva (dancer)
Cosmic Dance of Siva, The (dancer)
Credo (dancer)
Cuadro Flamenco (dancer)
Cutting the Sugar Cane (dancer)
Dance of the Redeemed (dancer)
Danza Afro-Cubana (dancer)
Death of the Bull God, The (dancer)
The Divine Idiot (dancer)
The Divine Idiot (dancer)
Dreams of Jacob, The (dancer)
Dynamo (from Labor Symphony) (dancer)
El Amor Brujo (dancer)
Flamenco (dancer)
Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Flamenco (Spanish) Dances (dancer)
Flamenco Table Dance (dancer)
The Forty-Niners (or Rhythm in a Gold Rush Camp) (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (dancer)
Frohsinn (dancer)
Frohsinn (dancer)
Frohsinn (dancer)
Frohsinn (dancer)
Gnossienne (dancer)
Gnossienne (dancer)
Gnossienne (dancer)
Gnossienne (dancer)
Gnossienne (dancer)
Gypsy Rondo-bout Town (dancer)
Hopi Indian Eagle Dance (dancer)
Hopi Indian Eagle Dance (dancer)
Hopi Indian Eagle Dance (dancer)
Ich Ruf zu Dir (dancer)
Ich Ruf zu Dir (dancer)
Invocation to the Thunderbird (dancer)
Invocation to the Thunderbird (dancer)
Invocation to the Thunderbird (dancer)
Invocation to the Thunderbird (dancer)
Joesphine and Hippolyte (dancer)
Kinetic Molpai (dancer)
La Bamba (dancer)
Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
The Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
The Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
The Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
The Mevlevi Dervish (dancer)
Minuet for Drums (dancer)
Mosaico Mexicano (dancer)
Mountain Whippoorwill (dancer)
The Mountain Whippoorwill (dancer)
Not-So-Pure Polka (dancer)
Not-so-Pure Polka (dancer)
O Brother Sun and Sister Moon (dancer)
O Brother Sun And Sister Moon (dancer)
O Brother Sun and Sister Moon (A Study of St. Francis of Assisi) (dancer)
O Brother Sun and Sister Moon (A Study of St. Francis of Assisi) (dancer)
O Brother Sun and Sister Moon (A Study of St. Francis of Assisi) (dancer)
Osage-Pawnee Dance of Greeting (dancer)
Osage-Pawnee Dance of Greeting (dancer)
Osage Pawnee Dance of Greeting (dancer)
Osage - Pawnee Dance Of Greeting (dancer)
Paean (dancer)
A Polka of the Plains (dancer)
Portrait of St. Francis of Assisi (dancer)
Prometheus Bound (dancer)
Prometheus Bound (dancer)
Prometheus Bound (dancer)
Psalm of Protest, A (dancer)
A Psalm of Protest (dancer)
Quattrocento (dancer)
The Quest (dancer)
Radha (dancer)
Rhapsody, Op. 119, No. 4 (dancer)
Ribbon Dance, the (from The Red Poppy) (dancer)
Sarabande (dancer)
Scene from O Libertad - The Noche Triste de Moctezuma (dancer)
Solo Variation from Les Sylphides (dancer)
The Song of Songs (dancer)
The Sound of Darkness (dancer)
Sound Of Darkness, The (dancer)
Spear Dance (dancer)
Spear Dance (dancer)
Spear Dance (dancer)
Spear Dance-Japonesque (dancer)
Spear Dance Japonesque (dancer)
Study of St. Francis of Assisi, A (dancer)
A Study of St. Francis of Assisi (dancer)
A Study of St. Francis of Assisi (dancer)
A Study of St. Francis of Assisi (dancer)
A Study Of St. Francis Of Assisi (dancer)
A Study of St. Francis of Assisi (dancer)
Sundered Majesty (dancer)
Sundered Majesty (dancer)
Sundered Majesty (dancer)
Symphony In G Minor (dancer)
Tillers of the Soil (dancer)
Tillers Of The Soil (dancer)
Turkey In The Straw (dancer)
Turkey in the Straw as danced by a cowboy (dancer)
Turkey In the Straw as danced by a cowboy (dancer)
Turkey in the Straw" as Danced by a Cowboy" (dancer)
Twenty Third Psalm, The (dancer)
The Twenty Third Psalm (dancer)
Two Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Two Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Two Musical Visualizations: Barcarolle, Ich Ruf zu Dir (dancer)
Two Spanish Flamenco Dances (dancer)
Vaudeville 1916 (dancer)
Waltz in Springtime (dancer)
A Waltz Is A Waltz Is A Waltz (dancer)
Whirling Dervish (dancer)
The Whirling Dervish (dancer)
The Whirling Dervish (dancer)
Related collections
John Christian and Ted Shawn Photograph Collection
Ted Shawn/Jacob’s Pillow Correspondence, 1891-1972
Festival Artist Programs, Bios and Correspondence 1953
Festival Artist Programs, Bios and Correspondence 1959
Ted Shawn Lecture Tour 1959
Caroline and Anna Furman Collection
Brother St. Denis Collection
Anthony Low Collection
Related Works
12 Dance Vignettes from 16 Dances in Rhythms (choreographer)
16 Dance Vignettes from 16 Dances in Rhythms (choreographer)
Amethyst (choreographer)
Andante Favori (choreographer)
Around the Hall in Texas and Gringo Tango (choreographer)
Bach (choreographer)
Bach Suite (choreographer)
Barcarolle (choreographer)
Boston Fancy-1854 (choreographer)
Brothers Bernard, Lawrence, and Masseo (choreographer)
Choeur Danse (choreographer)
Contre Danse (choreographer)
Cosmic Dance of Siva, The (choreographer)
Cuadro Flamenco (choreographer)
Cutting the Sugar Cane (choreographer)
Dance of the Ages (choreographer)
Dance of the Redeemed (choreographer)
Danse Americaine (choreographer)
Danza Afro-Cubana (choreographer)
Death of Adonis (choreographer)
Death of a God (choreographer)
Death of the Bull God, The (choreographer)
The Divine Idiot (choreographer)
Dome, The (choreographer)
Dreams of Jacob, The (choreographer)
Dreier Lithograph, A (choreographer)
El Jaleo (choreographer)
Fetish (choreographer)
Five American Sketches (choreographer)
Flamenco (choreographer)
Flamenco Dances (choreographer)
Floor Plastique (choreographer)
The Forty-Niners (or Rhythm in a Gold Rush Camp) (choreographer)
Forty-Niners, The (choreographer)
Four Dances Based on American Folk Music (choreographer)
French Sailor (choreographer)
French Sailor, The (choreographer)
Frohsinn (choreographer)
Gnossienne (choreographer)
God of Lightning (choreographer)
Go Down Moses (choreographer)
Gothic (choreographer)
Gypsy-Rondo-Bout-Town (choreographer)
Hellas Triumphant (choreographer)
Ich Ruf zu Dir (choreographer)
Invocation to the Thunderbird (choreographer)
Joesphine and Hippolyte (choreographer)
John Brown Sees the Glory (choreographer)
Kinetic Molpai (choreographer)
Labor Symphony (choreographer)
Lal, A Stick Nautch (choreographer)
Line Study #2 (choreographer)
Mevlevi Dervish (choreographer)
Minuet for Drums (choreographer)
The Mongolian Archer (choreographer)
The Mountain Whippoorwill (choreographer)
Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen (choreographer)
O Brother Sun and Sister Moon (a study of St. Francis of Assisi) (choreographer)
Osage-Pawnee (choreographer)
Pierrot in the Dead City (choreographer)
Pirates' Island (choreographer)
Pleasantly Satiric Comment (choreographer)
Polka Militaire (choreographer)
A Polka of the Plains (choreographer)
Polonaise (choreographer)
Prometheus Bound (choreographer)
A Psalm of Protest (choreographer)
Rhapsody, Op. 119, No. 4 (choreographer)
Romance (choreographer)
Serenata Morisca (choreographer)
Song of Songs, The (choreographer)
Spear Dance (choreographer)
Straussiana (choreographer)
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (choreographer)
The Three Brothers (choreographer)
Three Rickshaw Coolies, The (choreographer)
Tillers of the Soil (choreographer)
Toccata and Fugue in D. Minor (choreographer)
Turkey in the Straw (choreographer)
Twenty Third Psalm, the (choreographer)
Valse de Concert (choreographer)
Valse Directoire (choreographer)
Viennese Waltz (choreographer)
Viva Faroan (choreographer)
The Whirling Dervish (choreographer)
Women of Spain (choreographer)
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