Isadora Duncan liked to say she first danced in her mother's womb -- and she may have been right. Her art seems to have been fueled by a combination of instinct, intuition, and irresistible calling. Her bohemian childhood nurtured her free... [more]
Isadora Duncan liked to say she first danced in her mother's womb -- and she may have been right. Her art seems to have been fueled by a combination of instinct, intuition, and irresistible calling. Her bohemian childhood nurtured her free spirit, and she flirted with dance classes and techniques, always performing, yet always resisting traditional training.
As a teenager, she declared herself the spiritual daughter of Walt Whitman, informed her agent that she'd discovered the essence of dance, and demanded bookings. After several humiliating performances for socialites and music-hall groundlings, Duncan decided her artistic destiny awaited her on the far side of the Atlantic. Her early European performances at private parties and public concerts began to build her legend. Bewitched with her incandescent beauty and preclassical, barefoot performances, the Parisian art world tirelessly painted, photographed, and wrote about the passionate artist. Turn-of-the-century America, however, was not prepared for her expressive naturalism, radical politics, and see-through costumes. Living openly with lover, Paris Singer, the son of the sewing machine mogul, Duncan flouted Victorian mores.
Her dance expressed her contempt for oppressive social conventions. In one performance, Duncan bared her breasts to protest the corset's imprisonment of women's bodies. In addition to her iconoclastic politics, Duncan deconstructed the conventions of classical movement with an entirely new form of free dance. Her deeply personal style embodied the natural world; she used skips, walks, twirls, and jumps to explore unfettered, organic movements. The virtuosity of her expression and the sheer intensity of her spirit enthralled and bewildered her international audience, who had never seen anything like it. In 1921, her political and artistic life merged when she opened a dance school in the newly created Soviet Union. (The school soon closed due to lack of funding from the fledgling Soviet Republic.) Her death is as legendary as her life; the long scarf that was her trademark became caught in the wheel of her sports car, choking her to death. [show less]