Jane Sherman, at 101, dancer and writer

Jane Sherman performed her own Nautch dance in 1927 after returning from the Denishawn Far East tour. Jane Sherman performed her own Nautch dance in 1927 after returning from the Denishawn Far East tour. (Jacob’S Pillow Dance Festival Archives)
By Jack Anderson
New York Times / March 21, 2010

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NEW YORK — Jane Sherman, a writer who not only chronicled the excitement of early 20thcentury American dance but also lived through it as a performer, died Tuesday at the Lillian Booth Actors’ Home in Englewood, N.J.

She was 101.

Her death was announced by Norton Owen, director of preservation at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass.

Ms. Sherman performed with companies ranging from modern dance groups to the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

But she was best known as a former member of, and an authority on, Denishawn, the eclectic company founded by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in 1915.

From it emerged modern dance figures such as Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman.

When Denishawn visited Asia on what proved to be an exhilarating but exhausting tour, in 1925 and 1926, Ms. Sherman went with it, at 17 the youngest member.

Having an observant eye and a keen memory, she recorded her impressions in her diary and in letters home.

All this material was carefully preserved and served as the basis for the 1976 book “Soaring,’’ a vivid account of the trip that won the de la Torre Bueno Prize for dance writing, given at the time by Dance Perspectives Foundation and now by the Society of Dance History Scholars.

Believing that Denishawn had become underappreciated, Ms. Sherman went on to write “The Drama of Denishawn Dance’’ (1979) and “Denishawn: The Enduring Influence’’ (1983).

She also taught Denishawn dances — from sketches inspired by foreign cultures, including those of Asia, to dramatic vignettes and lyrical modern-dance studies — for the Martha Graham Dance Company, the Vanaver Caravan, the 1990 Lyon Biennale Festival, and Jacob’s Pillow, which Shawn had founded.

Born in Beloit, Wis., Ms. Sherman was the daughter of Horace Humphrey Sherman, an advertising writer, and Florentine St. Clair, an opera singer.

Her dance studies began when she was 13, after the family moved to New York City, and she saw a St. Denis program that included “Brahms Waltz and Liebestraum,’’ a solo that inspired her to study at the New York Denishawn School. Years later she taught the solo to the ballerina Cynthia Gregory.

Seeking more lucrative employment, she joined the Ziegfeld Follies and toured with the troupe in 1927 and 1928, then returned to modern dance as a member of the Humphrey-Weidman Company in 1928. She also appeared in Broadway revues and was a Rockette in 1934 and 1935.

After her dance career ended, she pursued writing and editing, becoming fiction editor at Seventeen magazine in the 1940s.

In 1940, Ms. Sherman married Ned Lehac, a high school science teacher who was also a composer and lyricist for revues, contributing material to 14 shows from 1930 to 1942. He died in 1999 at 99.

She leaves no immediate survivors.