Russell Meriwether Hughes, born on May 13, 1899 in Louisville, Kentucky, moved with her family to San Antonio in 1910 and in 1924 made her professional stage debut dancing prologues to silent movies at the Rialto Theatre. where she assumed the stage name La Meri. She moved to New York City played the “subway circuit” with the dance company of Maria Montero, and was a featured performer in Keith Times’ vaudeville act and in Shubert’s “A Night in Spain.”
The peak of her career was from the late 1920s through the early 1940s when she received widespread acclaim during worldwide international tours traveling to Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, India and the Far East. In 1940 she established the School of Natya with Ruth St. Denis in New York City where she taught and performed with her company the Five Natyas and presented noted guest speakers. lShe also taught and lectured at Columbia University, Connecticut College, New York University and the Juilliard School of Music. lShe was a distinguished poet and author of several articles on dance as well as textbooks on dance techniques. Her text “Spanish Dancing,” published in 1969 is generally considered to be the definitive work on the subject.l
She retired to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1970 where she established Ethnic Dance Arts, Inc. which produced annual Ethnic Dance Festivals each summer. In 1972 she was awarded the prestigious Capezio Dance Award and in 1973 was given an honorary citation by Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe recognizing her for artistic achievement. In 1984 she moved back to San Antonio where she died four years later at the age of 89 on January 7, 1988.