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Isadora Duncan
Isadora Duncan portrait.jpg
Angela Isadora Duncan

(1877-05-27)May 27, 1877, San Francisco, California, U.S.A
Died September 14, 1927(1927-09-14) (aged 50)
Nationality American, Soviet
Known for Dance & choreography
Movement Modern/contemporary dance
Isadora Duncan - first fairy
Duncan as the first fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Isadora Duncan (May 27, 1877 – September 14, 1927) was an American dancer. She was an inspiration for modern dance.

Duncan was born in San Francisco, California. She preferred natural movement, instead of what she called the artificial movements of ballet. Her 'free dance movement' was based on simple, flowing movements of the body. It was inspired by nature, and by ancient Greek sculptures. Costumes were flowing and transparent. Dances involved simple runs, skips and jumps, big gestures and mime.

She went to the Soviet Union in 1922, but left in less than two years. At different times she lived in Paris, London and other European cities. She started dance schools in Moscow, Berlin and Paris. The schools did not last long, but Duncan had admirers who have continued her influence to the present day.

Private life

1923. Esen duncan
Duncan and her husband Sergei Yesenin

Duncan's private life was tragic. Both her children were killed in a strange accident on the River Seine in 1913. The children were in a car with their nanny when the car stalled as the driver tried to avoid a collision. He got out to hand-crank the engine, but forgot to put the brake on. The car rolled across the road, down the bank and into the river. The children and their nanny drowned. Duncan married poet Sergei Yesenin (1895–1925) in 1922. He left her in 1923, and died two years later.


AX Isadora Duncan Tomb crop
Tomb of Isadora Duncan at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

On September 14, 1927, she was involved in a tragic car incident where she broke her neck and died instantly.

Born in the United States, she lived in Europe from the age of 22 until her death at age 50. In the United States she was popular only in New York, and then only later in her life.


Her work was continued by some of her six adopted daughters. They were her pupils, the Isadorables, who continued to teach her methods after her death. There have been several revivals of interest in Duncan. There was a film, Isadora (1969) by Karl Reisz. There were two ballets. Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora by Frederick Ashton had its first show in 1976. Kenneth Macmillan created a two-act ballet Isadora for the Royal Ballet (1981).

In New York her tradition has passed to third generation Duncan dancer Lori Belilove. She founded The Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation in 1979 and The Isadora Duncan Dance Company in 1989.

Her ideas on natural dance influenced a wide range of other dancers. Some of the ideas of the Denishawn School of Dancing are quite Duncanesque, and the growth of modern dance in general owes something to her.

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