Find A Grave Memorial

Isadora Duncan (1877 - 1927)
Birth:  May 27, 1877
Death:  Sep. 14, 1927

Dancer. Dubbed the "Mother of Modern Dance", the enigmatic Isadora was born Angela Isadora Duncan to parents Mary Dora Gray and Joseph Charles Duncan in San Francisco, California in the year 1877. Joseph Duncan left the family in 1880, and Mary struggled to make ends meet for her four children, of which Isadora was the youngest. She moved her brood to Oakland, California, where the atmosphere in the household was impoverished but bohemian; filled with love and an appreciation for the arts. Isadora eventually dropped out of school feeling it cramped her style and she and her sister, Elizabeth, taught dance classes to help with the family's expenses. Inspired by a dream of dancing, Isadora convinced her family to uproot and move to Chicago, where, in 1897, she joined the touring company of theatrical producer, Augustin Daly. The tours led her to England, and upon returning, she and her family once again moved to pursue their dreams of a life in the arts. This time they ended in New York. Near penniless, the family made their way by performing at the homes of the wealthy and elite a group that regaled the rich with dancing and stories all accompanied by Mary Duncan on the piano. Eventually they saved up enough money to pursue their ultimate dream of living in Europe. They sailed on a cattle boat, hopes so high they barely felt the grumblings of their near-empty stomachs. The Duncans were nothing if not dreamers, always supporting and following the bright star of their clan's youngest member. Though all of the Duncans were talented artists with big dreams, it was Isadora who truly shined and inspired. She was known to tell others in all seriousness that her mother was woefully sick while pregnant with her, and survived only by eating oysters and sipping champagne. This, Isadora noted, was the food of the goddess Aphrodite, and because of it Isadora was quite literally dancing in her mother's womb. Upon arrival in London in 1899, the troupe resumed their in-home performances for the elite in most of Europe's most prominent and great cities. Their reputation spread and they became well received in European upper societies. In 1903, after being introduced to the works of Frederick Nietzsche in Germany, Isadora began to formulate a philosophy all her own as it pertained to "the dance". In Berlin, she gave a speech entitled The Dance of the Future, wherein she predicted a return to freeform and free-spirited dance like that of the ancient Greeks. She felt modern, popular dance (stylized ballet, at the time) was a disgrace to the human body, too rigid and stifling to the body's soul. She believed dance should emanate naturally from the body's solar plexus. Isadora and her family, especially her brother, Raymond, were especially drawn to Greece and its classical history so much so that, at the height of their careers, they spent every last dime trying to rebuild an ancient Greek-inspired palace in Athens. The Duncans often went from living well off to dirt-poor, spending their money as quickly and freely as they lived. They were known to wear long, draping clothes wrapped in the free-flowing style of the ancient Greeks, regardless of where they were or what time of year it happened to be. Isadora's free spirit, while seeming almost commonplace today, was revolutionary and quite controversial in her time. A woman in the late Victorian era who scoffed at marriage, wore revealing clothes while prancing around barefoot, and had children out of wedlock with different men was considered downright scandalous in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Even in Europe's more progressive cities, Isadora was a bit of a shock; yet back in her native United States, which was much more conservative, she was spurned and an outcast. In 1906, she gave birth to her first child Deidre by the famous set designer, Gordon Craig. The two never married, though remained close friends for the remainder of Isadora's life. Her second child, Patrick, was the result of her years-long love affair with Paris Singer, a son of the sewing machine magnate, Issac Singer. Isadora's life-loving, bright spirit was forever dimmed after their tragic deaths in 1913. On April 19 of that year, the children and their nanny were out for a ride when the car stalled on a hill overlooking the Seine River. The driver forgot to set the parking brake as he stepped out to inspect the car's engine, and the vehicle rolled down the hill and into the dark waters; it, with its precious cargo, quickly sank below the surface. By time the car could be pulled from the water, Isadora's children and their nanny had drowned. Isadora never fully recovered from the loss. In 1922, she married the much younger, Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin. The eighteen years between them was not their only obstacle the marriage was fraught with tension, heightened by Sergei's violent temper, moody outbursts, and incessant, heavy drinking. Isadora returned to the United States with Sergei in 1923 to perform in Boston, but her red costume and recent marriage to a Bolshevik angered her fellow Americans. Believing her to be a communist supporter, she was booed and taunted when she took to the stage in Boston. In anger, Isadora bared her breasts and infamously yelled to the crowd, "This is red and so am I!" She left the country in a fury vowing never to return to its shores; it was a promise she kept. She and Sergei separated the next year, and, in 1925, the young Russian was found shot it is still unclear whether he was murdered or the mentally disturbed man had ended his own life. In her later years, no longer dancing, Isadora was known more for her long list of supposed bedroom partners and scenes of public drunkenness than her freeform, soul-stirring dances. The once-great dancer had become a heavy drinker after the deaths of her children, and her later years found her financially and spiritually crippled. She spent her last days in a Paris hotel room articulating her memoirs for her autobiography, My Life. She died, however, before the book was complete it was finished with the help and input of friends and published in 1927. Her dramatic and shocking life met an equivalent end the spirited dancer was known for wearing long, draping scarves. On the evening of September 14, 1927, Isadora wearing a scarf hand painted by Russian artist Roman Chatlov wrapped around her body - was a passenger in a convertible Amilcar in Nice, France. The driver, a young man by the name of Benoit Falchetto, took off with Isadora in the backseat not knowing anything was awry until he heard her screams from behind him. Coming to a stop, Isadora was found dead behind the vehicle her scarf had become wrapped around the spokes of the car's back tire and, as the car took off, she was pulled bodily from the vehicle and drug behind it. The bizarre and terrible death seemed almost a fitting end for a life lived so precipitously and brazenly. Isadora came into this world with ferocity and left it with just as much passion; modeling a life lived in perfect harmony with her oft-quoted and favorite saying, "Sans limites". (bio by: skatoolaki)