Women in History. Isadora Duncan biography. Lakewood Public Library.
NAME: Isadora Duncan, born Dora Angela Duncan 
DATE OF BIRTH: May 27, 1878 
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, California 
DATE OF DEATH: September 14, 1927 
PLACE OF DEATH: Nice, France. She died when her scarf accidentally became tangled
in the wheels of a Bugatti sports car, resulting in a broken neck. 

FAMILY BACKGROUND: Isadora was the second daughter and the youngest of four
children to parents Joseph Charles and Dora Gray Duncan. Her father was a poet
and her mother was a pianist and music teacher. When Isadora's parents married,
her father was divorced with four children and 30 years her senior. He supported
his family through running a lottery, publishing three newspapers, owning a
private art gallery, directing an auction business and owning a bank. When the
bank fell into financial ruin, he abandoned Isadora's family, moved to Los
Angeles where he divorced and remarried again.  

Isadora did not believe in marriage but did have love affairs with stage designer
Gordon Graig and millionaire (Paris) Eugene Singer and had a child by each. Her
children, Deirdre and Patrick were tragically and accidentally drowned in 1913
while with their English governess. Later in her life she married Russian poet,
Sergei Esenin in 1922 but separated shortly after. 

EDUCATION: As a child, she learned unconventionally to "listen to the music with
your soul."  Her mother instilled in Isadora a love for dance, theater,
Shakespeare and reading. At the young age of 6 years old, she danced for money
and taught other children to dance. Dancing lessons took precedence over formal
education; however, she read and was inspired by the works of Walt Whitman and

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Isadora is known as the mother of "modern dance", founding the
"New System" of interpretive dance, blending together poetry, music and the
rhythms of nature. She did not believe in the formality of conventional ballet
and gave birth to a more free form of dance, dancing barefoot and in simple Greek
apparel. Her fans recognized her for her passionate dancing and she ultimately
proved to be the most famous dancer of her time.  

In 1895 Isadora and her family moved east to pursue her professional dancing
career. She opened In New York as a fairy with August Daly's company in A
Midsummer Night's Dream. She was also funded by wealthy New Yorkers to give
private appearances. In 1898 she expanded her dancing career by traveling to
London on a cattle boat with her mother, her sister Elizabeth and brother,
Raymond. Her first professional European performance was at the Lyceum theater in
London on February 22, 1900. She turned down substantial dancing offers to join
Loie Fuller's touring company and toured Budapest, Vienna, Munich and Berlin. She
studied for one year in Greece where she purchased Kopanos Hill outside of Athens
to construct an elaborate dancing stage. Her performances were based on
interpretations of classical music including Strauss' Blue Danube, Chopin's
Funeral March, Tchaikovsky's Symphonie Pathetique and Wagnerian works. 

Later in her life she opened a dancing school in Moscow where the Russian
government promised to provide her with room and board and a schoolroom. However,
after the school was built the government did not support her. To support
herself, she returned to the stage unsuccessfully in America and then toured
Europe once more. She died in Europe. 

WRITINGS: Isadora's writings included The Dance, in 1909; My Life,  her
autobiography in 1927; various periodical articles on dancing;  and The Art of
the Dance a memorial volume published in 1928. 

Blair, Fredrika. Isadora: Portrait of the Artist as a Woman. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1986.
Dillan, Millicent. After Egypt: Isadora Duncan and Mary Cassatt. New York:
Dutton, 1990.
Isadora, Rachel. Isadora Dances. New York:  Viking, 1998.
Kurth, Peter. Isadora: a Sensational Life. Boston:  Little, Brown and Company,
MacDougall, Allan Ross. Isadora; a Revolutionary in Art and Love. Edinburgh: New
York, 1960.

Isadora Duncan Foundation for Contemporary Dance 
Isadora Duncan (1878-1927) by Samuel Dickson - Museum of the City of San
Isadora Duncan from KQED Center for Education and Lifelong Learning.  
The Early Moderns Tutorial Ch. 2: The Solo Dancers - Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)
Isadora Duncan, modern dance pioneer (1878 - 1927) - from The Early San Francisco
Stage: An Online Exhibit, San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum

People do not live nowadays. They get about ten percent out of life. 
- Isadora Duncan
This page may be cited as: 
Women in History. Isadora Duncan biography. Lakewood Public Library. 

P.O. Box 770682
Lakewood, OH 44107
216.228.4779 Phone or Fax
E-mail: women@womeninhistoryohio.com 
Presented by Lakewood Public Library