Isadora: A Sensational Life

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9780316507264: Isadora: A Sensational Life

Isadora Duncan is considered by many to be the founder of modern dance. Her name is synonymous with originality, spontaneity, drama, and sensuality. Finally, here is a biography that does justice to the life of this unforgettable woman. Never before has Isadora Duncan been so thoroughly explored.

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Review:

It's a bit of a stretch to suggest, as Peter Kurth does in his biography of the expatriate artist, that Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) single-handedly invented modern dance, a claim that Vaslav Nijinsky and George Balanchine, among others, would almost certainly contest.

But Kurth has that claim on good authority, namely Duncan herself, who recalled, "I was possessed by the dream of Promethean creation that, at my call, might spring from the Earth, descend from the Heavens, such dancing figures as the world had never seen." Never shy of self-promotion, Duncan captivated audiences wherever she took the stage, earning a following--but also stirring controversy--in her native United States, and even greater exaltation and stormier criticism in Europe, where she made her home for most of her adult life. There she emerged as a textbook bohemian, avidly practicing and preaching free love and other convention-flouting doctrines, breaking hearts, taking up with political radicals and some of the great artists of the day, and drinking far too much. She also defined the figure of the artist as celebrity, living each day, as one Russian critic remarked, "as though bewitched by music" and unconcerned by the mundane. She even died spectacularly, done in by a fashion accessory and bad timing.

Toward the end of her life Duncan remarked, "I am not a dancer. I have never danced a step in my life." She was a dancer, of course, and one whose influence has endured. She was also an original, self-aware and certain of her greatness. Kurth tells her story well in this vivid biography, one of value to students of modern dance and the history of the Lost Generation. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Peter Kurth is the author of numerous books, a contributing writer for Salon, and has written for Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, The New York Observer and other publications. He lives in Vermont.

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