"I spent long days and nights in the studio, seeking that dance which might be the divine expression of the human spirit through the medium of the body's movement. For hours I would stand quite still, my two hands folded between my breast, covering the solar plexus? I was seeking and finally discovered the central spring of all movement, the crater of motor power, the unity from which all diversions of movement are born, the mirror of vision for the creation of dance." (Isadora Duncan "My Life", 1928) Isadora Duncan, it is said, didn't dance to music, she danced the music - letting a symphony of sounds spontaneously guide her body to graceful expression. Untutored in dance but determined to share the beauty of natural movement with the world, Duncan trained her to express her innermost spirit to the strain of Beethoven and Wagner. Her simple yet charismatic performance of hops, skips and leaps conveyed the carefree joy of childhood, while her dramatic poses reflected suffering universal to humanity. Duncan fitted across America and Europe in bare feet and following Grecian-style tunics, her unrestricted style alternately scandalizing and mesmerizing buttoned-up turn-of-the-century audiences that were accustomed to "mechanical" ballet. The dance community had not seen the likes of her before, nor has it since. She left no choreography, no technique, no repertory, yet her idiosyncratic, instinctive approach to art freed the stage for generations of modern dancers who would follow in her steps.
THE SOLO DANCER
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927).
Angela Isadora Duncan was born in 1877 in San Francisco, California. As a child she studied ballet, Delsarte technique and burlesque forms like skirt dancing. She began her professional career in Chicago in 1896, where she met the theatrical producer Augustan Daly. Soon after, Duncan joined his touring company, appearing in roles ranging from one of the fairies in a "Mid-summer Night's Dream" to one of the quartet girls in "The Geisha." Duncan travelled to England with the Daly Company in 1897. During this time she also danced as a solo performer at a number of society functions in and around London
Isadora Duncan in New York
Returning to New York City in 1898, Duncan left the Daly company and began performing her solo dances at the homes of wealthy patrons. Calling their program "The Dance and Philosophy," Isadora and her older sister Elizabeth offered society women an afternoon of dance pieces set to Strauss waltzes and Omar Khayam's "The Rubbaiyat." Influenced by the Americanized Delsarte movement, these "afternoons" received little serious notice from the press. Duncan became discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm, and, with her mother and siblings, set sail for London in 1899.
Duncan's Introduction to Music and Art
In the years between 1899 and 1907, Duncan lived and worked in the great cities of Europe. In London in 1900 she met a group of artists and critics - led by the painter Charles Hall and the music critic John Fuller-Maitland - who introduced her to Greek statue art, Italian Renaissance paintings and symphonic music. During this period, Fuller-Maitland convinced her to stop dancing to recitations and to begin using the music of Chopin and Beethoven for her inspiration
The Dance of the Future
In Germany Duncan was introduced to the philosophy of Frederick Nietzsche, and soon after began formulating her own philosophy of dance. In 1903 she delivered a speech in Berlin called "The Dance of the Future." In it she argued that the dance of the future would be similar to the dance of the ancient Greeks, natural and free. Duncan accused the ballet of "deforming the beautiful woman's body" and called for its abolition. She ended her speech by stating that "the dance of the future will have to become again a high religious art as it was with the Greeks. For art which is not...
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