Isadora Brown Biography & Facts
Angela Isadora Duncan (May 26, 1877 or May 27, 1878 – September 14, 1927) was an American dancer who performed to great acclaim throughout Europe and the US. Born and raised in California, she lived and danced in Western Europe, the US and the Soviet Union from the age of 22 until her death at age 50 when her scarf became entangled in the wheel and axle of the car in which she was travelling in Nice, France.
Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco, the youngest of the four children of Joseph Charles Duncan (1819–1898), a banker, mining engineer and connoisseur of the arts, and Mary Isadora Gray (1849–1922). Her brothers were Augustin Duncan and Raymond Duncan; her sister, Elizabeth Duncan, was also a dancer. Soon after Isadora's birth, her father was found to have been using funds from two banks he had helped set up to finance his private stock speculations. Although he avoided prison time, Isadora's mother (angered over his infidelities as well as the financial scandal) divorced him and from then on, the family struggled with poverty. Joseph Duncan, along with his third wife and their daughter, died in 1898 when the British passenger steamer SS Mohegan ran aground off the coast of Cornwall.After her parents' divorce, Isadora's mother moved with her family to Oakland, California, where she worked as a seamstress and piano teacher. Isadora attended school from the ages of six to ten, but she dropped out, having found it constricting. She and her three siblings earned money by teaching dance to local children.In 1896, Duncan became part of Augustin Daly's theater company in New York, but she soon became disillusioned with the form and craved a different environment with less of a hierarchy.
Duncan's novel approach to dance had been evident since the classes she had taught as a teenager, where she "followed [her] fantasy and improvised, teaching any pretty thing that came into [her] head". A desire to travel brought her to Chicago, where she auditioned for many theater companies, finally finding a place in Augustin Daly's company. This took her to New York City where her unique vision of dance clashed with the popular pantomimes of theater companies. While in New York, Duncan also took some classes with Marie Bonfanti but was quickly disappointed in ballet routine.
Feeling unhappy and unappreciated in America, Duncan moved to London in 1898. She performed in the drawing rooms of the wealthy, taking inspiration from the Greek vases and bas-reliefs in the British Museum. The earnings from these engagements enabled her to rent a studio, allowing her to develop her work and create larger performances for the stage. From London, she traveled to Paris, where she was inspired by the Louvre and the Exposition Universelle of 1900. In France, as elsewhere, Duncan delighted her audience.In 1902, Loie Fuller invited Duncan to tour with her. This took Duncan all over Europe as she created new works using her innovative technique, which emphasized natural movement in contrast to the rigidity of traditional ballet. She spent most of the rest of her life touring Europe and the Americas in this fashion. Despite mixed reaction from critics, Duncan became quite popular for her distinctive style and inspired many visual artists, such as Antoine Bourdelle, Dame Laura Knight, Auguste Rodin, Arnold Rönnebeck, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, and Abraham Walkowitz, to create works based on her.In 1910, Duncan met the occultist Aleister Crowley at a party, an episode recounted by Crowley in his Confessions. He refers to Duncan as "Lavinia King", and used the same invented name for her in his 1929 novel Moonchild (written in 1917). Crowley wrote of Duncan that she "has this gift of gesture in a very high degree. Let the reader study her dancing, if possible in private than in public, and learn the superb 'unconsciousness' — which is magical consciousness — with which she suits the action to the melody." Crowley was, in fact, more attracted to Duncan's bohemian companion Mary Dempsey (a.k.a. Mary D'Este or Desti), with whom he had an affair. Desti had come to Paris in 1901 where she soon met Duncan, and the two became inseparable. Desti, who also appeared in Moonchild (as "Lisa la Giuffria") and became a member of Crowley's occult order, later wrote a memoir of her experiences with Duncan.In 1911, the French fashion designer Paul Poiret rented a mansion — Pavillon du Butard in La Celle-Saint-Cloud — and threw lavish parties, including one of the more famous grandes fêtes, La fête de Bacchus on June 20, 1912, re-creating the Bacchanalia hosted by Louis XIV at Versailles. Isadora Duncan, wearing a Greek evening gown designed by Poiret, danced on tables among 300 guests; 900 bottles of champagne were consumed until the first light of day.
Opening schools of dance
Duncan disliked the commercial aspects of public performance, such as touring and contracts, because she felt they distracted her from her real mission, namely the creation of beauty and the education of the young. To achieve her mission, she opened schools to teach young women her philosophy of dance. The first was established in 1904 in Berlin-Grunewald, Germany. This institution was the birthplace of the "Isadorables" (Anna, Maria-Theresa, Irma, Liesel, Gretel, and Erika), Duncan's protégées who would continue her legacy. Duncan legally adopted all six girls in 1919, and they took her last name. After about a decade in Berlin, Duncan established a school in Paris that was shortly closed because of the outbreak of World War I.In 1914, Duncan moved to the United States and transferred her school there. A townhouse on Gramercy Park was provided for its use, and its studio was nearby, on the northeast corner of 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South). Otto Kahn, the head of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., gave Duncan use of the very modern Century Theatre at West 60th Street and Central Park West for her performances and productions, which included a staging of Oedipus Rex that involved almost all of Duncan's extended entourage and friends. During her time in New York, Duncan posed for studies by the photographer Arnold Genthe.
Duncan had been due to leave the United States in 1915 aboard the RMS Lusitania on its ill-fated voyage, but historians believe her financial situation at the time drove her to choose a more modest crossing. In 1921, Duncan's leftist sympathies took her to the Soviet Union, where she founded a school in Moscow. However, the Soviet government's failure to follow through on promises to support her work caused her to return to the West and leave the school to her protégée Irma. In 1924, Duncan composed a dance routine called Varshavianka to the tune of the Polish revolutionary song known in English as Whirlwinds of Danger.
Philosophy and technique
Breaking with convention, Duncan imagined she had traced dance to its roots as a sacred art. She developed from this notion a styl.... Discover the Isadora Brown popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Isadora Brown books.