Brooks began her entertainment career as a dancer, joining the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts modern dance company in Los Angeles in 1922. The company included founders Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, as well as a young Martha Graham. In her second season with the company, Brooks advanced to a starring role in one work opposite Shawn. A long-simmering personal conflict between Brooks and St. Denis boiled over one day, and St. Denis abruptly fired Brooks from the troupe in 1924, telling her in front of the other members, "I am dismissing you from the company because you want life handed to you on a silver salver". The words left a strong impression on Brooks; when she drew up an outline for a planned autobiographical novel in 1949, "The Silver Salver" was the title she gave the tenth and final chapter. Brooks was 15 years old at the time of her dismissal.
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