Her motto was sans limites. She has been called mad, inspired, a genius and an eccentric. She lived and loved freely, deliberately, and on her own terms.
Born in San Francisco in 1877, Isadora Duncan has become known as the mother of modern dance, but perhaps more importantly she stands as a brilliant example of a woman with an incredible self-belief and a determination to offer the world the art she loved.
She certainly didn’t waste any time. By the age of 6, she was already holding dance classes from her home for the girls in her neighborhood, showing them how to move like the ocean. She did this to help support the family but despite her efforts, money was scarce and the family of four children struggled to make ends meet.
Isadora and her mother moved from San Francisco to Chicago and then to New York, in pursuit of a successful career as a dancer. A rebel against the rigidity of traditional dance and ballet, Isadora’s individual style – inspired by nature, Grecian forms and the connection between emotions and movement – was not appreciated by many at the time. It wasn’t until her later years in London, Paris, and Russia that she found her success.
Isadora was an adventurer and a thinker, a defender of women’s rights, and a brave critic of the social norms of her time. Unfortunately, her life was cut short by a tragic car accident in the South of France at the age of 50 but her memory lives on as a pioneer of modern dance and a revolutionary woman.
Her memoir, My Life, is a must-read for a beautifully written dose of inspiration!
Isadora in her own words:
“Virtuous people are simply those who have. . . not been tempted sufficiently, because they live in a vegetative state, or because their purposes are so concentrated in one direction that they have not had the leisure to glance around them.’ - Isadora Duncan
“One cannot make plans for life, or rules for marriage. Life comes, and one lives, each day. I am opposed to marriages. I believe in the emancipation of women.” - Isadora Duncan
“While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal living conditions on this earth?” - Isadora Duncan
“Art is not necessary at all. All that is necessary to make this world a better place to live in is to love — to love as Christ loved, as Buddha loved.” - Isadora Duncan
”There are many who think, apparently, that life is a series of extremely boring habits which they call virtues. I do not believe in putting chains and a padlock on life. Life is an experience, an adventure. It is an expression. Most Americans are hypnotized by a wrong idea of life, brought to this country by the Puritans.” - Isadora Duncan
“Where are we to look for the great fountainhead of movement? Woman is not a thing apart and separate from all other life organic or inorganic. She is but a link in the chain, and her movement must be one with the great movement which runs through the universe; and therefore the fountainhead for the art of the dance will be the study of the movements of Nature.” – Isadora Duncan
“It was never easy to coax Isadora Duncan into a photographer’s studio. Like a wild and wise animal, she fled from those who sought to capture the essence of her — which was motion — by making her stand still.” - Poet, Max Eastman