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Duncan, Isadora(ĭz'ədôr`ə dŭng`kən), 1878–1927, American dancer, b. San Francisco. She had little success in the United States when she first created dances based on Greek classical art. But in Budapest (1903), Berlin (1904), and later in London and New York City (1908), she triumphed. An innovator, pioneer, and liberator of expressive movement, she was inspired by the drama of ancient Greece. She danced barefoot to music that was often not written to be danced. Her costume, a revealing adaptation of the Greek tunic, was complemented by several colored scarves draped from her shoulders. Through her many tours, her schools in Berlin, Paris, Moscow, and London, and her daring and dynamic personality, she greatly influenced the development of modern dancemodern dance,
serious theatrical dance forms that are distinct from both ballet and the show dancing of the musical comedy or variety stage. The Beginnings of Modern Dance
Developed in the 20th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. . She was briefly (1922–23) married to the Russian poet Sergei YeseninYesenin, Sergei Aleksandrovich
, 1895–1925, Russian poet. Yesenin was the most popular poet of the early revolution and the object of a considerable cult. He belonged to the imagist school, advocating absolute independence for the artist.
..... Click the link for more information. . In 1927 she gave her last concert in Paris; she died when her scarf caught in the wheel of her car while she was motoring at Nice.
See her autobiography (1927, repr. 1966) and The Art of The Dance, ed. by S. Cheney (1928, repr. 1970); biographies by I. Duncan (1958), W. Terry (1964), V. Seroff (1971), F. Blair (1987), and P. Kurth (2001).
Born May 27, 1878, in San Francisco; died Sept. 14, 1927, in Nice. American dancer.
Duncan was one of the first modern dancers to contrapose free expressive dance to the classical school of ballet. In 1903 she gave her first concert program in Budapest. Repudiating the school of classical dance, she asserted the principles of a universally accessible art of dance and advocated the idea of the general artistic education of children. In her creative work she was guided by models from ancient Greek fine arts and aspired to an organic union between dance and music. Duncan rejected traditional gestures and poses, preferring natural expressive movements. She replaced the ballet costume (the tutu, tights) with a free-flowing tunic and danced in bare feet. Duncan believed that dance movements derive from an “inner impulse.” In her concerts she used classical symphonic and piano music, interpreting the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and other composers through dance. Her dancing was akin to pantomine. It consisted of elements of walking, running on half-toe, and expressive gestures. The dancer produced a great emotional impact on the spectators. “Free movements,” unsupported by dance technique, tended to substantially impoverish her art.
Duncan left no systematized dance method capable of meeting the demands of professional choreographic art. The schools founded by her in Germany (1904), France (1912), and the USA (1915) were short-lived. Duncan toured Europe and often visited Russia (1905, 1907-13) and was one of the first foreign artists who appreciated the importance of a socialist order for the development of the arts (she created a number of dances on revolutionary subjects). She lived in the USSR from 1921 to 1924. In 1921 she organized a studio in Moscow (that existed until 1949), which, after Duncan’s departure, was directed by her adopted daughter, Irma Duncan.
WORKSMoia zhizn’. Moscow, 1930. (Autobiography; translated from English.)
Tanets budushchego. Moscow, 1907. (Translation.)
REFERENCESLevinson, A. Staryi i novyi balet. Petrograd, 1917.
Shneider, I. Vstrechi s Eseninym. Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1965.
Seroff, V. The Real Isadora: A Biography. New York, 1971.
N. P. ROSLAVLEVA