The fact that modern dance was born in Los Angeles is well known, and it is not. Dance texts are not uncertain on the subject. In 1915, the pioneer Ruth St. Denis -- who took inspiration from progressive early 20th century Western theater and from the Eastern dance, theater and spiritual disciplines ripe in Southern California at the time -- founded the Denishawn school in Los Angeles with her husband, Ted Shawn.
Martha Graham was a Denishawn student. History was made.
But New York has for so long co-opted that history by becoming the center of modern dance that St. Denis' role in the art form's creation still needs regular prompting.
L.A. choreographer and dancer Lionel Popkin's evening-length "Ruth Doesn't Live Here Anymore," which will be given at REDCAT Thursday through Saturday evenings, is intended to remind that St. Denis (who was born in New Jersey sometime between 1877 and 1880 and died in L.A. in 1968) not only did live here but she also remains a provocative stimulus for questions of the nature of dance and culture.
For Popkin, who describes himself as half Jewish and half Indian, considering St. Denis means contending with her versions of orientalism, with the notion that modern dance was actually founded on what today might seem loopy misrepresentations of Southern Asia.