About Isadora Duncan 

Isadora Duncan is known as the "mother of modern dance." She revolutionized dance
at the turn of the 20th Century, taking the three "Bs" of dance at that time -
Ballet, Ballroom and Burlesque - and creating an entirely new, more expressive
dance form on a higher plane of artistic integrity and acceptance.

Born in Oakland, California on May 26, 1877, Isadora was raised in an
unconventional household. She grew up with an artistically-driven, divorced,
atheist mother, a notorious and famous, but absent father, and spirited siblings.
Together, the Duncan family contemplated the writings of Shakespeare, the music
of Beethoven, the art of ancient Greece and the Renaissance, the poetry of
Whitman. Isadora's days were often unstructured, spent dancing on the beaches of
the California coasts. It was from these beginnings that Isadora's ideas of dance
were born.

She took these ideas with her to find her fortunes across America. Unfortunately,
America wasn't ready for Isadora's big ideas about dance. Despite limited
exposure in Augustine Daly's touring productions, such as A Midsummer Night's
Dream, and as a novelty act at society luncheons, it wasn't until Isadora took a
cattle boat to Europe that she found true success as an artist and understanding
of her artistic ideals in London and especially Paris.

Isadora Duncan revolutionized dance in several ways. First, she danced to the
music of the great masters - Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Brahms,
Scriabin and Wagner - music that was considered "above" dance. But in doing so,
Isadora elevated dance to a level of artistic appreciation it had not received
since the days of the ancient Greeks. Isadora also danced about the human
condition, politics, and more abstract themes than the mimed storylines prevalent
in ballets of the day. She also stripped the staging of dance down to a bare,
curtained space, and the costuming down to simple, flowing tunics, letting the
movements and the music be the focal point of the artistic statement.

In her years touring and living in Europe, Isadora also opened a school of dance
in Grunewald, Germany. Isadora hoped to inspire an entire generation of
free-thinking, intelligent, living children through dance and learning. At her
school, dancing was integrated with all types of learning, and education was
joyful. Her students were taken from the poor classes and given free room, board
and lessons. It was out of this school that Isadora's main pupils, dubbed "The
Isadorables," developed.

But Isadora continued to tour to support her school and to further her art. She
had tumultuous love affairs with Gordon Craig, the famed stage designer, Paris
Singer, the millionaire, and had children out-of-wedlock with both men. She had
many other affairs with men, and believed women should be free to love and bear
children outside the "bonds" of marriage.

Isadora also started a school in Moscow, Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in
1917, hoping that the Soviet Union would embrace her vision to educate children
with art, dance and learning. However, that hope was quickly disillusioned when
the Soviet government halted funding, forcing Isadora to leave the school in the
hands of her pupil Irma Duncan, and tour once again to make money.

Isadora was profoundly impacted by the tragic deaths of her children in 1914 in
Paris, when they and their governess were drowned in the Seine River during a car
accident. Isadora left dancing for a while, and her later choreography became
more dramatic, somber and politically charged.

In Isadora's later years, she married a Russian poet, Sergei Esenin, which caused
great uproar in the devoutly anti-Communist America. Isadora caused great
controversy in the American press and audiences when she arrived for a tour in
America in the early 1920s with her Russian husband, red hair, red costumes and
bare flesh.

Isadora spent her final years in France and Europe, where she felt most at home,
filled with some dancing (mostly slow and profound), drinking, traveling and some
sadness. Her life was dramatically ended in 1927 when she was strangled and
dragged to death when her scarf tangled in the wheel of a convertible sportscar.
Thousands marched through the streets of Paris to mark her funeral.

Recommended Reading:
My Life by Isadora Duncan
A Sensational Life by Peter Kurth
Isadora by Frederika Blair

DuncanDancers.com - Annapolis Maryland - Copyright 2007 Valerie Durham



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