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Isadora Duncan

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Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan was a famous dancer who brought a new kind of dance to the world. She danced out the feelings from deep in her heart. Unlike other dancers in the late nineteenth century, Isadora Duncan danced with flowing motion. She was not a ballerina, and did not like to watch ballet dancers, with their stiff bodies and unnatural pointe shoes. At first she was not liked, but as time went on, Isadora Duncan became a dance revolutionist people all over the world will never forget.

Angela Isadora Duncan was born, one of four, on May 26,1877 in San Francisco, California. Her mother, Dora Duncan, was a piano teacher, and her father, Joseph Duncan was a banker, journalist, and poet. Her parents were both well educated, charming, and an altogether happy couple. However, their marriage fell apart soon after Isadora's birth.

After the divorce, Dora was left with little money to support her four children; Augastin, Raymond, Elizabeth, and Isadora. She gave her music lessons, but still was not bringing in enough money to keep living in the same house. The family began moving from one apartment to another, learning to leave each one a day before the bills came around.

Isadora started school at the age of five. In the late nineteenth century, students were expected to sit still during school, memorizing and reciting their lessons. To Isadora this was "irritating and meaningless." She hated school. She said later in her autobiography that her real education came on the nights when Isadora and her siblings would dance to her mother's music and learn about what they were interested in -- literature and music.

Isadora was told as a child that she would have to learn to depend on herself to get what she needed in life. So as Isadora grew older, she began to understand her family's financial condition and was eager to help. She and her sister Elizabeth began baby-sitting to help the family. To keep their charges busy, they taught them how to dance. The dance lessons were mostly just telling them to wave their arms in the air, but it kept them busy and raised money for the family.

In those days, when dancing was first popular, "nice" women wore clothing from chin to toe, not showing any skin. However, new kinds of dance were surfacing that allowed the "nicest" women to take of their corsets and not have to pretend to have a perfect figure. More and more women began dancing, inspiring Isadora to help her family by working as a dance instructor. She knew how to dance from all the practice she got from dancing at home to their mother's piano music, but she had not yet taken any dancing lessons. Her mother saved up enough money for her to participate in a small dance school, but Isadora disliked her teacher. He made her dance in pointe shoes, which Isadora found painful, ugly, and unnatural. In ballet, everything has a specific step or a traditional pose. Ballerinas dance with stiff bodies, without freedom of movement. This went against the way Isadora liked to dance. She quit her schooling after three lessons. Although her own dance lessons had not gone well, she quit her academic schooling, and started her business. Her neighbors had noticed her gracefulness and began sending their children to be her students. Pretty soon, word got around and Isadora was teaching some of the wealthy girls of San Francisco. Her classes eventually grew so large that Isadora found that her own dance lessons had indeed been unnecessary.

One day, when Isadora was sixteen, her father came back to their apartment with good news. He felt badly about leaving his family with practically nothing, when he had plenty of money to himself. He bought the family a giant mansion with a tennis court, dancing rooms, a barn and a windmill. Then he left, never to be seen by his family again. Elizabeth and Isadora started a dance school and Raymond and Augastin made the barn into a theater. To the Duncan children this must have been a dream. They began to perform together for small audiences in the barn, and eventually started a tour of Northern California. The reviews were a mixed bag, and soon their fortune failed. However, during that time Isadora learned to be independent. She believed she could go on performing without her family. She had a dream of leaving San Francisco to tour the country with an acting group. But her first audition was not good. She was told that her work was no good for a theater; that it was much more fitting for a church. But Isadora would not be let down. She made up her mind to go to Chicago with her mother, and Dora Duncan agreed. They would leave for Chicago in mid-1895, leaving the rest of the family behind.

They arrived in Chicago with little more than a trunk. Without any income, Dora Duncan and her daughter were soon left homeless. Disappointed that she was again poor, Isadora went out looking for a job. Eventually, she found work. The manager of a Masonic Temple Roof Garden decided to hire her on the condition she would make her dancing livelier. Although he made Isadora wear a "frilly" dress, she took the job. She made $50 her first week, but then refused to sign a long - term contract. She auditioned for many theater groups in Chicago, but got the same reaction she had on her first audition. Her fortune changed, however, when Augastin Daly's theater group came to town. She auditioned for him, and he accepted her art, giving her a small part in a pantomime he would present in New York that fall. In October of that year she went to New York City, excited about finally being able to share her art with a real paying audience. However, when she arrived and took the part, she was again disappointed. Pantomime did not allow speaking, and as far as she was concerned, was neither acting nor dancing, and therefore was not part of the dream she had hoped for in New York. She stayed with the group for a year, traveling to England where they performed in London. When they returned to New York, Isadora quit dancing for the theater group.

While traveling with the group, she had begun to take interest in the music of Ethelbert Woodridge Nevin. One day, while Isadora was choreographing, Nevin, who was working in a nearby studio, heard his music being played and came bursting into the room. He watched how beautiful Isadora's dances were, and decided to play concerts with her. They played their concerts at Carnegie Hall, and after getting excellent reviews, began receiving invitations to play at the homes of many wealthy families. But the income from all this was very low, and was barely enough to support Isadora and her mother. Isadora began to think she could do better than New York. She dreamed of England, but did not have nearly enough money to go there. Using her creativity and cleverness, she remembered the wealthy families she had given concerts for, and went to them for money. Eventually she got enough money, and again her mother agreed to go with her, on the condition that they bring along her siblings, Elizabeth and Raymond.

They arrived in England with virtually no money. After living in poor areas of London for a few weeks, Isadora saw an article in a newspaper about a wealthy woman entertaining in her home. Isadora was looking for work, and visited the woman. The woman decided to have her perform for a group of her friends. She was a big hit, and following this performance, Isadora received many invitations to perform at the social events of other wealthy women of the area. On one occasion Isadora performed at the home of one of the members of Parliament. Many people came to this event, including people of royalty such as the Price of Whales and people interested in art such as the artist Charles Hall?. Isadora wore a few yards of curtain veiling and found that the people who watched her surprisingly did not comment on her attire. The ordinary people who watched her made comments like "How pretty" and "Thank you very much," while artists who watched her described her as beautiful and fluent. Isadora was disappointed by the reaction of those who did not find her an emotional dancer, but was proud to have finally found fans.

Though Isadora was finally doing well, Elizabeth and Raymond Duncan found nothing but boredom. Elizabeth went back to the United States in hopes she could find something to do. Raymond set out for Paris, with his mother and Isadora soon to follow. When they arrived in Paris, Isadora was immediately invited to perform, once again, in the homes of wealthy families. It was at these performances that Isadora made friendships with singer Mary Desti and painter Eug?ne Carri?re. Her ...

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