La Meri / Bill Adams Collection



Repository Name: Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives
Repository Location: Becket, Massachusetts


1910 – 1979 (Inclusive date(s))


5 boxes

Related Entities

La Meri (is related to)

Administrative/Biographical History

La Meri (1899-1988) was a pioneer in the field of ethnic dance, specializing in Spanish, Mexican and Indian dance forms. She was born Russell Meriwether Hughes in Louisville, Kentucky and moved to San Antonio, Texas as a child. While in Texas, she was inspired by performances by Anna Pavlova, La Argentina, and the Ballet Russes and decided to become a dancer. She began her dance career in the company of Spanish dancer Maria Montero in New York City in 1928. After performing in Mexico she adopted the name La Meri as a permanent stage name and began touring the world to widespread acclaim. Her tours encompassed South and Central America, Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, India, Burma, Malaya, Java, the Philippines, China, Japan, Ceylon and Hawaii. With Ruth St. Denis, she established the School of Natya in New York in 1940 where she taught Indian dance. She renamed the school the Ethnological Dance Center in 1943 and it was open until 1956. She was also a frequent performer and teacher at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, where she first performed in 1940. Her Pillow appearances were varied and many, encompassing virtually every season until her retirement in the 1960s. She was a major cornerstone of the Pillow’s faculty for decades, and she served as a longtime member of the Board of Directors. Retiring to Cape Cod, La Meri continued to write and produced ethnic dance festivals from 1970 until 1979 at the Ethnic Dance Arts organization. She published her autobiography entitled Dance Out the Answer in 1977. In 1984 she moved back to San Antonio and died in 1988.


Gift of Bill Adams (2014) with significant contributions from Nancy Ruyter and the estate of Josie Neal. This collection was originally compiled by La Meri and loaned to a potential biographer, Josie Neal, in the 1980s. After the deaths of both La Meri and Josie Neal, it remained undisturbed in the hands of Neal's family for many years. At some point after 2010, longtime La Meri companion Bill Adams tracked down Josie Neal's daughters, retrieved the collection from them, and subsequently donated it to Jacob's Pillow. In preparation for a book on La Meri, Nancy Ruyter digitized and described much of the manuscript material, and these scans and descriptions have become an integral part of the collection.

Collection Contents