Isadora Duncan a „Mother of Modern Dance“

„There are likewise three kinds of dancers: first, those who consider dancing as a sort of gymnastic drill, made up of impersonal and graceful arabesques; second, those who, by concentrating their minds, lead the body into the rhythm of a desired emotion, expressing a remembered feeling or experience. And finally, there are those who convert the body into a luminous fluidity, surrendering it to the inspiration of the soul. “- Isadora Duncan

Rhythm, movement and dance are expressions contained in human body that are always trying to emerge out. Through history they were first free (tribal dance), then contain through period of renaissance and baroque, to be free again through modern dance in early 20th century.

Modern dance

Modern dance a broad genre of western concert or theatrical dance, emerged in Germany and the United State in the late 19th and early 20th century as a rejection or rebellion against classical ballet, against wearing tight tied corsets and pointe shoe and in pursuit for freedom of expression.

Angela Isadora Duncan first one of the rebels, a pioneer of freedom of movement and today known as a „Mother of modern dance “ was an American and French dancer born in San Francisco in 1877. as the youngest of the four children of Joseph Charles Duncan and Mary Isadora Gray.

Her interest in dance started very early, at the age of five, and by the age of 14 together with her sister Elizabeth Duncan she was already giving dance lessons to neighborhood children.


Dance career, life convictions and influence

Isadora joined Augustin Daly’s theatre company in New York at the age of 19. where she performed and in her pursuit for artistic expression, she even took some ballet classes with Marie Bonfanti, a prima ballerina and ballet teacher from New York, but disappointed with its strict regime and containment of the body quits and starts her solo dancing career.

She danced barefoot for riches, wrapped in a Greek toga and long scarf around her neck. This give her the desired freedom for her body to express all the emotions contained in her. This was the birth and beginning of the modern dance as we know it and she was the architect of it.

„The dancer's body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul. The true dance is an expression of serenity; it is controlled by the profound rhythm of inner emotion. Emotion does not reach the moment of frenzy out of a spurt of action; it broods first, it sleeps like the life in the seed, and it unfolds with a gentle slowness. The Greeks understood the continuing beauty of a movement that mounted, that spread, that ended with a promise of rebirth. “- Isadora Duncan

She was the first dancer who danced on the classical music of Beethoven, Chopin and Wagner, a dance revolutionaries who with her natural and free movement (inspired by classical Greek arts, folk dance, social dance, nature and natural forces) influenced and inspired many writers, painters and artist of that time. Antoine Bourdelle, Auguste Rodin, Arnold Rönnebeck, and Abraham Walkowitz, all create works inspired by her. When the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris was built, Duncan's image was carved in its bas-relief over the entrance by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and she was included in painted murals of the nine muses by Maurice Denis in the auditorium.

Duncan mostly performed through the Europe, America and Russia and even opened dance schools there where she taught children beauty and freedom of the dance and movement.

Her mission in life was creation of beauty and education of young, led by that idea she found “Isadorables”, a group of six young girls who danced in modern style from 1905. – 1920. and later adopted and continued her dance teaching.

Let us first teach little children to breathe, to vibrate, to feel, and to become one with the general harmony and movement of nature. Let us first produce a beautiful human being, a dancing child.” -- Isadora Duncan


Love life

Isadora Duncan’s love life was controversy as was her dance and life point of view in that time. She had a child with theatre designer Gordon Craig and another with Paris Singer, one of the many sons of sewing machine magnate Isaac Singer, but both children died in tragical accident when their nanny car went into the Seine. While living and teaching in Russia she married 18 years younger Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin the most popular Russian poet of the 20th century. This was her one and only marriage.

These events influenced and change her life tremendously and like any true artist she poured these emotions into dance. Brahms Waltzes (1905.), The Lullaby Solo, Marseillaise (1915.) and Marche Slave (1917.) are just some of her dances that expressed her feelings and political point of view from that time.

„The wind? I am the wind. The sea and the moon? I am the sea and the moon. Tears, pain, love, bird-flights? I am all of them. I dance what I am. Sin, prayer, flight, the light that never was on land or sea? I dance what I am.” - Isadora Duncan

The end

„Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire!" ("Farewell, my friends. I go to glory!"), these were her last words according to the saying of her dear friend Mary Desti while going for a ride in an Amilcar CGSS car, but her silk scarf draped around her neck entangled around the open-spoked wheels and rear axle, pulling her from the open car.

Apart from this tragic end there where many more intrigues, love controversy and interesting facts related to Isadora Duncan and you can read it all in her autobiography „My life“ first published in 1927. or watch in a movie „Isadora“ by Karel Reisz from 1968. with Vanessa Redgrave in main role. You can even experience her favorite place here in Opatija and stay at Isadora Duncan Junior suite at Villa Amalia where she loved to stay with her husband Sergei Yesenin and be inspired by the moving of the palm tree in front of the Villa.