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JIM: Sidda, dancing, evokes memories of Ruth Page

Internationally famed dancer was born in Indianapolis, the daughter of Columbia native Dr. Lafayette (L.F.) Page and his wife Marian, a pianist, whose visit here and later accomplishments were carried in the pages of the Adair County News
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"A great future awaiting:" Ruth Page, granddaughter of Adair County

"Dance isn't something that can be explained in words; it has to be danced." - Paige Arden

The recent photo of Miss Sidda brought to mind Ruth Page, a granddaughter of old Adair who achieved considerable fame in the world of dance.

She was born in Indianapolis near the end of the 19th century to Columbia native Lafayette (L.F.) Page, a physician, and his wife Marian, a pianist. Young Ruth visited Columbia, her father's ancestral home being the Page House on the Campbellsville Pike, where she spent weeks at a time during summers of her childhood years. In the dog days of August, 1911, the News reported that the previous week, at the home of W.R. Myers (also on the Campbellsville Pike, a bit nearer the Square than the Page residence), "Misses Myers and Adkins entertained with a 'Porch Party'...In the far corner of the porch delightful punch was served the guests by little Misses Ruth Page and Julie Blakeman."

Fast forward almost a decade to the closing days of 1920. By that time, Ruth was twenty-one (almost twenty-two) and had accomplished a great deal since being relegated with her cousin to the far corner of the Myers' porch. A few days before Christmas, an article headlined "A Distinguished Young Lady" graced the front page of the News. It mentioned Miss Page recently had spent several days visiting relatives in Columbia, and went on to say of her:
"She is only about twenty years of age, perfect in form, possessing all the graces that come to a refined young lady, and perhaps has received more compliments from the press than any other artist of her age in this or any foreign countries. She dances as much for what she gets out of it in physical culture, as she does to please her admirers. Her mother, a charming woman, is with her in all her engagements."
These were not empty words of flattery for an attractive young "artistic dancer" (as the newspaper called her) who had Adair County roots. Already, reported the News, she had "charmed audiences in New York, Chicago, Toledo, cities in South America, London, England, and other cities across the waters," and went on list clips from several glowing reviews in New York and London newspapers:
"She was recently abroad and while in London she was the attraction at the Coliseum. In speaking of her the Daily London Mirror says: 'The butterfly dance performed by pretty youthful Ruth Page is the finest thing of its kind we have seen, and this young lady should have a great future awaiting her.' The London Mail says, 'Nineteen year old Ruth Page, the wonderful dancer, is a most supple and alluring person.' The New York Evening Sun says, 'Ruth Page, the pretty youngster who was the memorable Infanta [in 1919], was delicious in Bal Masque pantomime and proved her spiritual right to the batik and wings of a butterfly.'"

Rarely has a prediction of success been so understated as that of the London Mail critic who wrote of "a great future awaiting" Miss Page. Her obituary in the New York Times (1991) noted that she "danced at the coronation of Emperor Hirohito of Japan in 1928 and gave programs in the Soviet Union in 1930." Over the next threescore years, she became -- and remained -- a dominant figure in dance as performer (frequently as danseuse), choreographer, director, and impresario--"a pioneer in creating works on American themes..." (Wikipedia). Her obituary in the Chicago Tribune referred to her as "the grand dame of dance in Chicago for nearly 70 years ..."
(Who but someone with Adair County roots would have the the ability -- and audacity -- to transform "Frankie and Johnnie," a slightly risque, decades-old ballad of love, infidelity and death, into a hit production that has seen many successful revivals since its opening in the late 1930s?)

After Ms. Page retired from active choreography about 1970, she remained a force in the Chicago dance scene, establishing the Ruth Page Foundation, among other things. From the Foundation later came the well-known Ruth Page Center for the Arts to give aspiring young dancers the chance to fulfill their own dreams of "a great future awaiting."

Contributor's note: this brief overview does but little justice to Ms. Page and her enduring contributions to dance in general and American dance in particular. CM readers are urged to visit the sites below (copy, paste,) for more detailed biographical sketches. It is also worthy of note that Ms. Page wrote two books, one of which, Page by Page (1978) is autobiographical in nature. (Perhaps another day will bring forth a sketch of Ms. Page's brother, whose image appeared on the cover of the October 31, 1955 edition of Time magazine.)
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This story was posted on 2013-09-08 05:21:20
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