Jane Sherman was born on June 14, 1908 in Beloit, Wisconsin, the daughter of advertising writer Horace Humphrey Sherman and opera singer Florentine St. Clair Sherman. Her formal dance studies began at the age of thirteen, after the family had moved to New York and she saw Ruth St. Denis perform the Brahms Waltz and Liebestraum at Carnegie Hall. Just after graduating from high school, she toured the Far East with Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn and the Denishawn Dancers in 1925-26. Her diaries from that journey would later form the core of her award-winning book, Soaring. She toured with the Ziegfeld Follies in 1927-28 and was a member of the first Humphrey-Weidman Company in 1928. She performed in a number of Broadway productions in the 1920s, including the third Garrick Gaieties, 9:15 Revue and Hello, Daddy, and danced with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in 1934-35.
Sherman’s writing talents were first employed when she was fiction editor for Seventeen magazine in the mid-1940s, and she wrote a number of children’s books in the 1950s. With the publication of Soaring: The Diary and Letters of a Denishawn Dancer in the Far East, 1925-1926, which won the prestigious De La Torre Bueno Prize in 1975, she embarked upon an active career writing about Denishawn and staging the works of Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis for performance. With the Denishawn Repertory Dancers (which she co-founded) and the Vanaver Caravan, she revived many forgotten Denishawn works which were seen at Jacob’s Pillow, at the 1990 Lyon Biennale Festival, and at other venues throughout the world. She also rehearsed Denishawn works for the Martha Graham Dance Company and coached Cynthia Gregory in the St. Denis work that had first inspired her to dance. Sherman’s dance books include The Drama of Denishawn Dance, Denishawn: The Enduring Influence, and Barton Mumaw, Dancer, which she co-wrote with Mumaw.
Sherman married composer and science teacher Ned Lehac in 1940, and they retired together to the Actors Fund Home in Englewood, New Jersey in the 1990s. Since moving to Englewood, she wrote two books of poetry, Songs of Senescence and A Bestiary of Poems, the most recent of which was published when she was 99. Lehac died several years ago at the Actors Fund Home, where Sherman passed away peacefully on March 16, 2010, at the age of 101. A memorial celebration will be scheduled for the summer.
(courtesy of Norton Owen, Director of Preservation, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival)
Jane Sherman (1908-2010)