IZZY & ISADORA - DUNCAN THAT IS: My First Modern Dance Muse
Updated: Feb 17
**WRITTEN ON MEDIUM MAY 25, 2020
“I…Isadora…hereby vow…that I will dedicate myself to the pursuit of Art and Beauty, and to the single life. I will never submit myself to any claims other than those of Truth and Beauty. Beauty is Truth…Truth: Beauty. That is all we know on Earth, and all we need to know.” ~ISADORA, 1969 movie starring Vanessa Redgrave
Photo by Leigh Photography
Continued from: *ALSO* A Belly Dancer
…As I compile the videos for this series of posts about my dance adventures, I am astounded by how deeply the threads of my Modern dance pioneer she-roes run through me. Given the brevity of my Modern training — a little over 2 years — and the fact that I had never been able to transform these video clips into living-room-obsessed VHS over-played garbage, I can only attribute such influence to the way these old souls speak to mine across the ages.
…I have Phoenixed again multiple times in the past 2 decades. I’m in ashes once more as I write this, but I’ve begun to blow on the embers of what will emerge in this incarnation.
My old, buried love of Modern and Expressionist Dance is one. Unearthing that topic will require multiple posts of its own.
ISADORA DUNCAN — “THE MOTHER OF MODERN DANCE” For my Modern Dance Muses, naturally (badum-tsss) we must begin with Isadora Duncan. Although she is not my namesake, people have asked me if she was for decades. But no, my stage name Isidora was bestowed upon me by two of my oldest and dearest friends for its meaning: “the gift of Isis.” Although daunted to be compared with the great Duncan, I have always been overjoyed when people are reminded of her when they meet me.
(I also find some of the century-spanning coincidences between us eerily fascinating, from the fact that her tribute movie’s release date almost coincides with my birth date, to her tragic history with lovers and car accidents, particularly the ultimate one that killed her — the long scarf she was wearing around her neck got caught in the spokes of an automobile and strangled her. Seeing as my neck traumas — two of them vehicular — are the bane of my dancing and martial training, my eyebrow raises in a most Spockly fashion.)
So back to college: during my Modern dance days, one of the first movement styles we delved into was Isadora Duncan’s. Later, I read her memoirs, My Life, (1) and watched the portrayal of her life and her arts in the 1968 movie, Isadora, (2) starring Vanessa Redgrave, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in this role. Arguments fly about the accuracy of this rendition. Nevertheless, that movie greatly impacted my dancing.
It also breathed ferocious life back into my longtime vow to protect and nurture my artistic expression, no matter what sorts of tomatoes were hurled at me, and no matter how many shackles people tried to make me wear — both professionally and romantically.
In counterbalance to the hours I spent honing Suhaila Salimpour's meticulous technique, Isadora dwells in my roots with her lack of concern for “perfectly” disciplined movement, her innovative and philosophical spirit, the flow of her fabrics, her joy and her sorrow, her lightness and her love of dancing outdoors.
She is there in my Earth and Air Elements. Bare feet on grass or in sacred spaces. Wind in hair. Veils fluttering in the breeze, trailing little girls like the pied piper. They were called the Isadorables.
(And so am I. That’s one of my many nicknames: Isadorable. Also…Isadorkable. Ahem.) 😜
She took her inspiration from Greek art, from nature, and from folk and social dances. In The Art of the Dance (6), she described herself as — not the character or narrator of the myths she portrayed — but as the “soul of the music.” She was the first to choreograph to songs that had not been composed specifically for dance. Her style is based in natural, organic movement, a deviation from the rigid Ballet technique that reigned in her day. In her memoirs, she cited the solar plexus as the “central spring of all movement.”
Isadora believed in tracing the Dance’s roots to its sacred arts, and pursued her burning desire to return dancing to a high art form, rather than mere entertainment.
Within me, all of these things are her legacies.
Original Photos & Footage of Isidora Duncan:
More about her style and those who have kept it alive:
And yes, you saw that correctly. Those who only picture the floating, prancing Isadora in white Greek-ish gowns have probably forgotten that she was also a scandalous, exotic rebel in her day. The Duncan-ness also burns in my blood with all her freedom, outspokenness, eccentricity, athletic vigor, sensuality, and passion. Here is a taste of her hair-flinging, fist-raising, and fangs, as depicted in the Regrave movie:
I particularly adore the mastery of wielding grace, softness and light hand-in-hand with fire and rebellious might. This is the opening scene of said film, and a mindset that has come to dominate my artist’s heart:
Isadora gave me the permission to follow my heart, which has always whispered, sung and shouted that, in art, Passion is just as important as Principle, and that “perfect” Discipline can never hope to capture an audience if it is devoid of Devotion and Emotion. In her words:
“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.”
1994 Photo by Kyle Kane. Shot for a painting series he did at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. I was dressed in the prop/wrap I had worn during one of the Modern Dance choreographies I was cast in, 100% Cotton, Collaborative Spirits in Motion.
I present unto you why Isadora Duncan is my Mistress, my Muse, my first Modern Dance (great-great-grand) Mother. I am awed and honored to share the majority of her name and the pieces of her inheritance that burn within me:
MORE SOURCES for your geeking pleasure about these topics, and the origins of my research:
3) Isadora Duncan on Wikipedia, where you can find links and references to many other sources about her.
6) The Art of the Dance, another of her books
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE:
--In the meanwhile, you can find more of my dance (and other) shenanigans here: