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Isadora Duncan ( 1877 - 1927 )  Category ( Dancers ) [suggest a correction]

Isadora DuncanIsadora Duncan, born Angela Isadora Duncan, led a romantic and tragic life. Born in San Francisco on May 27, 1877 to a banker and the daughter of a California senator, Duncan lost her father to a divorce when she was age three. She moved with her siblings and mother to Oakland, California, where her mother worked as a pianist and music teacher. Duncan dropped out of school early and she and her sister provided dance classes to the local children.

As a child, Duncan studied ballet, Delsarte technique and burlesque forms such as skirt dancing. In 1895 Duncan became part of Augustin Daly's New York theater company, and she traveled to England and Paris with this company in 1897. When the troupe returned to New York in 1898, Duncan performed for socialites with her sister. When this effort failed to win any notoriety, she returned to Europe. Here, she developed a philosophy about dance that would mark her as an enduring influence on twentieth-century culture.

Wearing long flowing scarves and going barefoot, Duncan created the first free-style dance movements based upon classical Greek arts, folk dances, social dances, nature and natural forces . She added an approach to the new American athleticism, which included skipping, running, jumping, leaping, and tossing. She became known as a muse, as she inspired artists and authors to create sculpture, jewelry, poetry, novels, photographs and artwork based upon her style.

A free spirit, Duncan bore two children out of wedlock who drowned when they were ages seven and three. Desperate to have another child, she bedded a stranger in Italy and bore a son who lived only a few hours. Ironically, Duncan now is known as the "Mother of Modern Dance." To add to her 'family,' Isadora legally adopted six young dancers known as "'les Isadorables." The last of these dancers, Maria-Theresa Duncan, died at Doctors Hospital in Manhattan on December 14, 1987. She was 92 years old.

Duncan's dance career waned by the end of her life, and she became known more for her financial scandals, love affairs, and public drunkenness. On September 19, 1927 in France, one of her famous long scarves became entangled in the rear wheel of a convertible automobile. When the car started, she was thrown from the car and strangled.

Image: A barefoot Isadora Duncan, photographed by Arnold Genthe during her 1915-1918 American tour.


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