LA MERI, The Original Dancing Queen, born March/May 13, 1898.

LA MERI (Meriwether Hughes) – An American dancer, choreographer, teacher, and writer, was born on March (some say May) 13, 1898. She championed cross-cultural dance performances and education, and she is remembered by John wearing his dancing shoes on Crosscurrents, Monday March 13 at 8:00 AM. Listen live at, 102.7fm, or 103.1fm.

La Meri was born in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 1898, and christened Russell Meriwether Hughes (after her father, oddly enough). She described her father as joyfully hardworking and her mother as a woman of great beauty and Scottish stubbornness… all of which were inherited by their daughter. An American dancer, choreographer, teacher, and writer, La Meri was ahead of her time in championing cross-cultural dance performances and education, yet she is almost totally forgotten today.

She received her first dance training in San Antonio, where she studied ballet and Spanish and Mexican dance as a child. She later studied Hawaiian dancing in Hawaii and, in New York City, modern dance.

Described as ”the indisputed queen of ethnic dance” by Walter Sorrell, the dance writer, La Meri was long considered the leading American authority on the subject, particularly the dance of India and Spain. She toured the world at the height of her career, in the 1920’s and 30’s, studying and performing in South and Central America, Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, India, Burma, Malaya, Java, the Philippines, China, Japan, Ceylon and Hawaii.

She founded the School of Natya with Ruth St. Denis in 1940 in New York, where she taught and performed with her company, the Five Natyas, and presented such guest lecturers as Pearl S. Buck, Coomaraswamy, Lin Yutang, Ted Shawn and Argentinita. Her book ”Spanish Dancing,” published in 1948, was considered by many to be the definitive text on Spanish dance.

She taught and performed with her own company at the New York School of Natya, which was absorbed into the Ethnologic Dance Center she founded in 1942. The school continued until 1956 and was an important source of training in ethnic dancing. La Meri taught at universities across the nation. She also taught and performed at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and taught at the Juilliard School in New York. On her retirement in 1970, La Meri established Ethnic Dance Arts Inc. in Hyannis, Mass., where she presented an annual ethnic dance festival and awards.

La Meri wrote six volumes of poetry and five books on dance esthetics, technique and composition. Her extensive collection of material on ethnic dance, given to the New York Public Library in 1948 and 1962, is a major holding of the library’s Dance Collection. In 1972, La Meri received the Capezio Award.

As a revolutionary performing artist whose interests and achievements were truly groundbreaking, La Meri built a life and career deeply deserving of our attention. Ruyter brings a specialist’s knowledge and sensitivity to a subject that demands closer study.

SOURCE: New York Times; Encyclopedia Of Dance;

4 thoughts on “LA MERI, The Original Dancing Queen, born March/May 13, 1898.

  1. Another absolutely amazing woman! The first picture looks like y’all are doing the merengue and the last one looks like a tango! Our folks dance, and we get to see it from that viewpoint, also Wyatt and Jonah! XOX Riley and the gang

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perfect for International Women’s Day and month, never heard of her so you have educated me. Merci!! I wish I could dance, but not dancing is a trauma from my childhood. Bonus though I have three dancing granddaughters.. Blessings! And dancing dogs, the best!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.