Jane Sherman had the distinction of being the youngest and last surviving Denishawn dancer, and she was a passionate advocate for the artistic legacies of Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis. Born in Wisconsin on June 14, 1908, she began her formal dance studies at the age of thirteen after the family had moved to New York and she saw Ruth St. Denis perform at Carnegie Hall. Just after graduating from high school, she traveled the Far East with the Denishawn Dancers in 1925-26, writing diaries that would later form the core of her award-winning book, Soaring
. She toured with Denishawn as part of the Ziegfeld Follies in 1927-28 and was a member of the first Humphrey-Weidman Company in 1928. She performed in a number of Broadway shows in the late 1920s and danced with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in 1934-35.
Sherman's writing talents were first employed when she was fiction editor for Seventeen
magazine in the mid-1940s, and she wrote a number of children's books in the 1950s. With the publication of Soaring: The Diary and Letters of a Denishawn Dancer in the Far East
, which won the prestigious De La Torre Bueno Prize in 1975, she embarked upon an active career writing about Denishawn and staging the works of Shawn and St. Denis. With the Denishawn Repertory Dancers (which she co-founded) and the Vanaver Caravan, she revived many forgotten Denishawn works which were seen at Jacob's Pillow, at the 1990 Lyon Biennale Festival, and at other venues throughout the world. She also rehearsed Denishawn productions for the Martha Graham Dance Company and coached Cynthia Gregory in the St. Denis work that had first inspired her to dance. Sherman's dance books include The Drama of Denishawn Dance
, Denishawn: The Enduring Influence
, and Barton Mumaw, Dancer
, which she co-wrote with Mumaw. Her contributions to the Pillow over the past 30 years were extensive, identifying countless costumes and photographs in the Pillow Archives, and documenting essential details about Ted Shawn's life and career.
Sherman married composer and science teacher Ned Lehac in 1940, and they retired together to the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey in the 1990s. After moving to Englewood, she wrote two books of poetry, Songs of Senescence and A Bestiary of Poems
, the most recent of which was published when she was 99. Lehac died several years ago at the Actors Fund Home, where Sherman passed away peacefully on March 16, 2010 at the age of 101. In her last published interview, conducted around the time of her 100th birthday, she was characteristically self-deprecating about her accomplishments and her lack of formal education. She mused, "Imagine what I could have done if I had gone to college!"