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Part Four Ruth’s Continued Education & Pedagogical Theory

Ruth continued her education in dance throughout her teaching career, eventually earning a master’s degree in physical education from Columbia University Teachers College in January of 1934 (Wittman 35). Looking for new creative inspiration, she also studied at Vermont’s Bennington College in 1936 in a special six-week modern dance course. Ruth states, “… if I were to continue teaching what I call modern dance and if I were to continue doing programs as I had started, then I’d have to know more about it… it was a very beneficial summer and I learned a great deal… I had firsthand experience… with the real artists” (qtd. in Wittman 63). She was instructed at Bennington by her idols, who she refers to as “the real artists”—Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman (63). After her studies at Bennington under these famous dancers, Ruth returned to UNO with an abundance of fresh inspiration for her dance instruction.

Heavily influenced by these artists and other pioneers like H’Doubler, Ruth’s instructional program and pedagogical theory at UNO involved more than physical dance. Her lessons were based in H’Doubler’s educational theory and carefully structured (Wittman 18). Following the model of her own education provided by Richardson at UNL, Ruth often lectured on dance theory, required her students to complete regular reading and writing assignments, attend dance performances, and even take initiative with their own costumes and music selections (18-22). The themes chosen for dance routines or performances were almost always based on current events. For example, “In the spring of 1941, once the war was in full bloom, the members of the Creative Dance class in their annual dance concert expressed their opinion of the Nazi movement by performing a number titled Dictatorship, which featured martial music, goose-stepping, uniformed dancers and one young dancer dressed as Hitler” (Thompson 73). The dancers performed numerous other contemporary programs informed by current events, like the programs War and Peace and The Green Table (Wittman 45, 54). Ruth felt that she was not only teaching her students how to dance but also, through dance, teaching them how to respond to the world, how to express themselves in meaningful ways, and how to participate in democracy by allowing students, especially females, an opportunity to express an opinion on current events or politics in a very public way—at dance recitals, programs, and performances.

 

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Part Five Orchesis Group

Although Ruth’s dance education courses were grudgingly tolerated her first year at UNO, as her reputation as an excellent instructor grew, so did her reputation within Omaha and the Midwest as a dance pioneer. Former student Adeline Speckter admiringly remarks, “Ruth was an excellent teacher—clear, disciplined and disciplining. I guess she was the prototype of the young, eager, committed teacher” (qtd. in Wittman 33). Ruth was eager for her students not only to enjoy what they were doing but also to understand what kind of political, social, and cultural change they were affecting in Omaha. The interest in dance education in Omaha only increased during Ruth’s years at UNO, as evidenced by the growing number of participants, performances, and audience members each year (4243). Ruth’s dancers were often front-page news in The Gateway. Tommy Thompson, author of A History of The