The Duncan technique is taught around the world, and the barre, floor and moving exercises established by Isadora and Elizabeth in their various schools show up in classes taught by teachers who have never met. Isadora died unexpectedly, in a horrific car accident, at the age of 49 in 1927. At the time, she did not have one established school although Isadora she had founded several schools during her career in various countries. A school of dance with studies in other arts and philosophy, for all children, was one of her greatest aims.
Some of Isadora’s works died with her, but three of the six “Isadorables” in particular — Irma, Anna and Marie-Therese — took up the call to continue Isadora’s work. In addition Elizabeth Duncan, Isadora’s sister did much to develop a codified technique. Irma, Anna and Marie-Therese began teaching classes and performing in earnest, with the great responsibility of making sure the dances, technique, exercises and philosophy were preserved and passed down.
A next generation of dancers, including Julia Levien and Hortense Kooluris, who studied under Irma, Anna and Maria-Therese have passed along Duncan’s dances, aesthetic and technique, keeping the artistry alive and still beautifully relevant today. In addition as contemporary dancers are becoming involved with Duncan Dance new and original applications and investigations of the technique are underway.
There is an overwhelming beauty in the pure expression presented in Duncan Dance that is particularly healing in today’s modern world. The themes of nature and universal humanity that permeate each gesture of the Duncan technique counterbalance the hard lines, rigid expressions and abstract concepts so frequently presented in contemporary dance and art.
Additionally, Duncan Dance was and still is an empowering movement style for women. The current technique is inherently feminine, and yet it is strong and expressive and powerful. It expresses weight and heft. As Duncan Dance progresses, however, it will be adapted to include more male influence for male dancers (Isadora initially took boys into her schools, but when funding was limited, kept only the girls because their need for this opportunity was so much greater during that time). Overall, the Isadora Duncan technique is innately hopeful and uplifting, something that is applicable and desirable in every age, for all cultures, and all people.
The most exciting, the most watchable, the most talented dancers initiate movement from themselves, their center before they actually move the extremities. In addition they become a visible expression of music. The best dancers always look like they are creating the dance in that very moment, not executing steps because a choreographer told them to. Duncan Dance can help all dancers find meaning behind movement, vitality expressed in every part of their being as they dance. Duncan dance can take any student of dance from mere “mover” to actual “Dancer.”
More and more dancers are beginning to discover Duncan Dance as a viable dance form for its own sake, with Duncan masters helping the technique and aesthetic to be more codified and widespread. In addition opportunities for participating in new choreography by Duncan masters are becoming more available.
Dance Visions NY would like to thank Valerie Durham for her intelligent insights and writings on Dance of Isadora Duncan. Much of the above is from the writings of Ms. Durham.