“People do not live nowadays. They get about ten percent out of life.”
“You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.”- Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Born in San Francisco, the poetic thinker and dancer proclaimed,
“I, Isadora Duncan hereby vow on my twelfth birthday that I will dedicate myself to the pursuit of art and beauty; and to the single life. I will never marry. I will never submit myself to any claims other than to truth and beauty. To seal this vow, I hearby burn my parents’ marriage certificate. Beauty is truth. Truth, beauty. That is all we know on earth, and all we need to know.”
While Isadora did eventually marry the Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin, in 1922, the Mother of Modern Dance kept her vow of dedicating herself to the pursuit of art, beauty, and truth.
From early childhood, Isadora studied the lines of ancient Greek sculpture and the movements of nature; both of which she incorporated into her unique style. Rejecting classical ballet which she deemed, “ugly and against nature”, she clad herself in Grecian tunics, threw off her shoes, unbound her hair, and danced from her soul. Stressing improvisation and pure emotion, she strove to rid her movements of all artifice. The result was a simplicity of grace, which like all masterworks, appeared deceptively easy to achieve.
Isadora considered the solar plexus the “internal motor” and would stand hours in trance. “I spent long days and nights in the studio, seeking that dance which might be the divine expression of the human spirit through the medium of the body’s movement. For hours I would stand quite still, my two hands folded between my breast, covering the solar plexus… I was seeking and finally discovered the central spring of all movement, the crater of motor power, the unity from which all diversions of movement are born, the mirror of vision for the creation of dance.”
In 1903, she gave a lecture in Berlin where she stated her dance principles.
“My intention is, in due time, to found a school, to build a theatre where a hundred little girls shall be trained in my art, which they in turn will better. In this school I shall not teach the children to imitate my movements, but to make their own, I shall not force them to study certain movements, I shall help them to develop those movements which are natural to them.”
She opened her first school in Grunewald, Germany in 1904. Driven by her belief that, “Every child that is born in civilization has a right to the heritage of beauty”, she covered the poorer students living expenses. During class, she urged her students to listen to the music and wait until it moved them to dance.
Of dance, she said:
“If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”
“Natural dancing should only mean that the dance does not go against nature, not that anything is left to chance.”
“The true dance is an expression of serenity; it is controlled by the profound rhythm of inner emotion. Emotion does not reach the moment of frenzy out of a spurt of action; it broods first, it sleeps like the life in the seed, and it unfolds with a gentle slowness. The Greeks understood the continuing beauty of a movement that mounted, that spread, that ended with a promise of rebirth.
The Dance – it is the rhythm of all that dies in order to live again; it is the eternal rising of the sun.”
“If we seek the real source of the dance, if we go to nature, we find that the dance of the future is the dance of the past, the dance of eternity, and has been and always will be the same.
The movement of waves, of winds, of the earth is ever the same lasting harmony.”
“It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple, beautiful sentence.”