I was exploring the NYPL Digital Gallery the other day and fell in love with these photos of Ruth St. Denis, one of the pioneers of modern dance. Born in 1879 in New Jersey, she began training at an early age taking ballet lessons with Italian ballerina Maria Bonfante and also learned skirt dancing, which eventually took her to vaudeville houses where she would perform. In 1898 she was hired as a featured dancer in a large company by a well-known Broadway producer who gave her the name “St. Denis” (her name was Ruth Dennis). St. Denis toured around the U.S. with the production of “Zaza” and was introduced to the work of several influential European artists and became interested in the dance and drama of Eastern cultures, including those of Japan, India and Egypt. She embarked on a solo career shortly thereafter and designed an exotic costume and a series of steps telling the story of a maid who was loved by the god Krishna, titling the dance “Radha”. It was performed at private matinees in Broadway theaters and it became her trademark. In the years that followed, St. Denis toured Europe and the US continuing her work as an artistic dancer and leaving her mark on the modern dance world. These photos really capture her exotic energy and beauty, and that first one is making me melt inside. Breathtaking.