Isadora Duncan the Barefoot Dancer
“My name is Isadora. It means child or gift of Isis "
Isadora Duncan, born May 26 or 27, 1877 in San Francisco and died September 14, 1927 in Nice, is an American dancer who revolutionized the practice of dance by returning to the model of ancient Greek figures. Through her great freedom of expression, which favored spontaneity and naturalness, she provided the first foundations of modern European dance, at the origin of contemporary dance. Influenced by her brother Raymond Duncan on a return to Hellenism and the cult of the body, she will want to give back all its place to beauty, to the harmony of the body, daring to show off almost naked, hidden only by a few veils. In addition, his choreographic work gives a special place to spirituality.
Founder of several dance schools in the United States and in Europe, especially in Russia, where her revolutionary ideal led her, in 1922 she married one of her greatest authors, the poet Sergei Essenin, in a union that only lasted a short time. of time.
Isadora Duncan was born at 55 Geary Street in San Francisco on May 26 or 27, 1877, the youngest of a family of four, including Thomas Gray, a California senator, children whose parents were banker Charles Duncan and Mary Dora Gray. Soon after Isadora's birth, her father lost his bank and publicly fell out of favor. Her parents divorced in 1880 and Mary Dora Gray moved with her children to Oakland where she worked as a pianist and music teacher. Isadora Duncan attended school in her early years but soon dropped out because, for its independent nature, the school system proved to be far too restrictive. On the other hand, her family being poor, she and her sister quickly began to give dance lessons to the children of the neighborhood in order to help with the finances of the household.
In 1895, she joined the Augustin Daly theater company in New York, but was quickly disappointed with this art. In 1899, she decided to go to Europe, first to London and then, a year later, to Paris. There, in two years, she obtained success and notoriety.
In Paris, the effervescence of the bohemian life of Montparnasse does not suit him. In 1909, she moved into two large apartments at 5, rue Danton, where the ground floor served as her apartment while the first floor served as a dance school. Barefoot, dressed in flashy scarves and faux Greek tunics, she creates a primitive style based on choreographic improvisation to go against the rigid styles of the time. She was particularly inspired by Greek mythology. She rejected traditional ballet steps to highlight improvisation, emotion and the human form. Isadora Duncan believed that classical ballet, with its strict rules and codifications, was "ugly and unnatural". A very large number of people rallied to his philosophy, which enabled him to open a school and teach there.
Its important influence inspires many artists and authors in their creations of sculptures, jewels, poems, novels, photographs, watercolors and paintings, with the example of the character of Élise Angel of the novel of John Cowper Powys As I hear it, dancer freely inspired by Isadora Duncan and who in the novel represents the (free) lover of the main hero Richard Storm in contrast to her other legitimate and possessive love Nelly.
When the Champs-Élysées theater was built in 1913, his portrait was engraved by Antoine Bourdelle in the bas-reliefs above the entrance, and painted by Maurice Denis on the wall fresco in the auditorium representing the nine Muses. .
At that time, she moved to Meudon Bellevue and founded her dance school there.
In 1922, in order to show her support for the social and political experience of the new Soviet Union, she decided to settle in Moscow. His character was totally outside the increasingly austere framework imposed by the new Soviet regime after the revolution, but his international notoriety brought more than welcome attention to the cultural and artistic ferment of the new regime. The Russian government's inability to support his extravagant proposals combined with the country's harsh living conditions led him to return to the West in 1924.
Throughout her career, Isadora Duncan hated the commercial aspects of public performances; she saw tours, contracts, and other practical aspects of her profession as distractions from her true mission: the creation of beauty and the education of young people. Extremely gifted teacher, totally unconventional, she was the founder of three schools dedicated to the transmission of her philosophy to groups of young girls - her attempt to include boys in them proved to be a real failure. The first in Grunewald, Germany, gave birth to her most famous group of students: the Isadorables, who took her name and danced with her, but also quite independently. The second school had a short existence before the First World War, in a castle located outside Paris; as for the third school, it was part of the tumultuous experiments carried out by Isadora in Moscow under the yoke of the Russian Revolution.
The teaching conducted by Isadora Duncan and her students brought her pride and anguish. His sister Elizabeth took over the German school and adapted it to the Germanic philosophy of her German husband. The Isadorables were then two-sided subjects imbued with the choreographic energy of Isadora but opposed to her by their constant desire to dance for commercial purposes. One of them, Lisa Duncan, was constantly punished for dancing in nightclubs. And the best-known of the group, Irma Duncan, who remained in the Soviet Union after Isadora left and took care of running the Moscow school, constantly angered Isadora by allowing students to dance. way too public and too commercial for his taste.
Isadora Duncan was the mother of two children who died in 1913, drowned inside a car that fell in the Seine. Sergei Essénine left her and finally committed suicide in 1925. Isadora Duncan died tragically on September 14, 1927 in Nice, strangled by the long scarf she wore caught in the spokes of the wheel of the Amilcar GS of her garage owner Benoît Falchetto. She was cremated and her ashes rest in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris with those of her children.
Isadora Duncan dreamed of becoming, by dancing, "wave, wind, tree, cloud, light". For her, the dance had to be above all "free", allowing the spontaneous expression of the body through the rhythm which is the most fundamental and the most natural to it: breathing.