- Honorary Degree (1981)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Presenter: John William Ryan
BIOGRAPHYTo consider the career of Ruth Page, pioneer of American dance, is to call to mind the many great names in the world of dance, music, and design. This most distinguished American dancer and choreographer has enjoyed an extraordinary career, one that stretches from the early years of this century to the present. She was born in Indianapolis and her public career as a dancer began when she was still very young. In 1918-1919 she danced with Anna Pavlova's Dance Company in South America. At this time Ruth Page began what was to prove a long and fruitful artistic association with Adolph Bolm, the Russian-born dancer and choreographer who lived in the United States for much of his adult life. In 1919 Ruth Page danced the lead role in Bolm's Birthday of the Infanta for the Chicago Opera Company, and for the following two years was associated with Bolm's Ballet Intime.
During the 1920's Ruth Page danced in all parts of the world and also began her career as a choreographer. From 1922 to 1924 she was the premiere danseuse in Irving Berlin's Music Box Revue in New York. She danced for Chicago's Allied Arts, again under the direction of Bolm, and in 1925 briefly with Diaghilev when Balanchine arranged dances for her. She studied at Monte Carlo under Enrico Cec-chetti, was the primary dancer of the Ravinia Opera Company, a guest soloist at New York's Metropolitan Opera Company, and appeared with the Municipal Opera Company of Buenos Aires. Ms. Page was a guest artist at the 1928 enthronement ceremonies for Emperor Hirohito in Japan and toured much of Asia and Europe in the late 1920's and early 1930's. In 1930 she performed a series of solo recitals in Moscow and from 1932 to 1934 toured the United States and the Orient with Harald Kreutzberg, the dance impresario.
In 1925 Ruth Page choreographed her first ballet, The Flapper and the Quarterback. With this ballet she became one of the first choreographers to use contemporary American themes in ballet. She was also among the earliest to recognize Black America as a source of inspiration, movement, and narrative for the dance. In many of her ballets, Ruth Page has enjoyed the collaboration of such distinguished designers as Antoni Clave, the Spanish designer and illustrator; Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese-American sculptor; and painters Pavel Tchelitchev and Georges Wakhevitch.
From 1934 to 1937 Ruth Page was both primary dancer and ballet director of the Chicago Opera Company, a post she returned to in 1942. In the intervening years, she was the director of the Federal Theatre Dance Project in Chicago, and then toured South America with a dance company she co-directed with Bentley Stone. The Page-Stone Ballet Company continued until 1946 and during its existence Ruth Page made many guest appearances both in the United States and abroad. In 1954 she was appointed ballet director of the Chicago Lyric Opera, a post she held until 1969. She was also choreographer and director of Ruth Page's Chicago Opera Ballet Company (1956-66), and of Ruth Page's International Ballet (1966-70), and has performed these dual roles for the Chicago Ballet Company since 1972.
Ruth Page's contributions to American art extend well beyond her career as a dancer, choreographer, and administrator. She has promoted the careers of many young artists in dance, music, and design. Included among these are Katherine Dunham, John Karza, Ruth Ann Koesun, and Carol Lawrence. She is the author of a book of essays on her career and has given one of the most successful lecture tours in recent years, "Ruth Page's Invitation to the Dance." She has also established a foundation dedicated to dance which operates a library, school, and theatre in Chicago.
The many honors and awards which Ruth Page has received include The Adult Council of Greater Chicago Award for contributions to the Performing Arts (1963), a Citation for Outstanding Service from the Ballet Guild of Chicago, the Mahariski Award of Columbia University (1977), the Illinois Association Dance Costumes Award for outstanding service to dance (1978), and the Community Arts Foundation Award (1978).
In honoring Ruth Page, Indiana University will grant a third honorary degree in one family. Lafayette Page, her father, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws in 1929. Her brother, Irvine Heinly Page, received an honorary Doctor of Science in 1975. Throughout her career Ruth Page has added luster to the brilliance and distinction of her family, and this is fittingly recognized today by the award of a Doctor of Humane Letters from Indiana University.