Isadora Duncan on the Lido in Venice (Raymond Duncan 1903)

"To seek in nature the fairest forms and to find the movement which expresses the
soul in these forms-this is the art of the dancer. ... My inspiration has been
drawn from trees, from waves, from clouds, from the sympathies that exist between
passion and the storm." 

ROBERT EDMOND JONES:  "Come away!  her dancing says.  Come out into the splendid
perilous world!  Come up on the mountain-top where the great wind blows!  Learn
to be young always!  Learn to be incessantly renewed!  Learn to live in the
intemperate careless land of song and rhythm and rapture!  Say farewell to the
world you know and join the passionate spirits of the world's history!  Storm
through into your dreams!  Give yourself up to the frenzy that is in the heart of
life, and never look back, and never regret!"

REYNALDO HAHN:  "In those moments where beauty and emotion fuse and climax,
something of the immortal floats about the dancer; she wanders in a divine ray,
in a mist where all works of art circle in unison with her."

Paris 1901 (Raymond Duncan)

CARL SANDBURG ("Isadora Duncan"):  "The wind?  I am the wind.  The sea and the
moon?  I am the sea and the moon.  Tears, pain, love, bird-flights?  I am all of
them.  I dance what I am.  Sin, prayer, flight, the light that never was on land
or sea?  I dance what I am." 

SHAEMAS O'SHEEL:  "What glorious things she makes the soul remember!  Once we
were young, and the leaping blades of our desire striking the granite facts of
life lit lively fires of wonder.  We were simple, so that when the moving beauty
of nature and the joy of each other's company stirred us to ecstasies, we sought
free and natural expression; we danced-we danced as the movements of waves and
branches, and as the exquisite beauties of our own bodies suggested.  Such
memories she evokes by her subtle gestures and movements. : The morning of time
dawns on our spirits again, and once more we have a sense that hears the gods."

At the Parthenon, 1920 (Edward Steichen)


 "I have discovered the dance.  I have discovered the art which has been lost for
two thousand years. : I bring you the idea that is going to revolutionize our
entire epoch."

"I am asked to speak upon the `Dance of the Future'-yet how is it possible?   In
fifty years I may have something to say.  Besides, I have always found it
indiscreet for me to speak of my dance.  The people who are in sympathy with me
understand what I am trying to do better than myself, the people who are not in
sympathy, understand better than I why they are not."

"I had three great Masters, the three great precursors of the Dance in our
century-Beethoven, Nietzsche and Wagner.  Beethoven created the dance in mighty
rhythm.  Wagner in sculptural form.  Nietzsche in spirit.  Nietzsche was the
first dancing philosopher." 

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE:  "The world itself is the will to power-and nothing else! 
And you yourself are the will to power-and nothing else!" 

"Raise your hearts, my brethren, high, higher, and forget not your legs! 
Moreover it is better still if ye stand on your heads. ... And be that day
reckoned lost on which we did not dance once." 

"For others do I wait ... for higher ones, stronger ones, more triumphant ones,
merrier ones, for such as are built squarely in body and soul:  laughing lions
must come." 

In the Theatre of Dionysus, Athens (Raymond Duncan)

"I was possessed by the dream of Promethean creation that, at my call, there
might spring from the Earth, descend from the Heavens, such dancing figures as
the world had never seen." 

LINCOLN KIRSTEIN:  "Her dances were hymns to freedom -- of sensibility, of
passion, of the transcendentally convinced and convincing Emersonian soul....
Today it is hard to picture convincing interpretations of Joy, Hope, Immortality,
the Soul.  But at the turn of the century an American girl, incarnating these and
more, coincided with historical promise."

THE NEW REPUBLIC (1928):  "'A book separate,' this Life of Isadora Duncan, a
book, as Whitman said of Leaves of Grass, 'not to be linked with the rest nor
felt by the intellect.'" 

WALT WHITMAN:  "I celebrate myself, and sing myself / And what I assume you shall
assume / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

"I see America dancing, beautiful, strong, with one foot poised on the highest
point of the Rockies, her two hands stretched out from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, her fine head tossed to the sky, her forehead shining with a crown of a
million stars."

San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum

Munich 1903 (Hof-Atelier Elvira)

WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS:  "Oh body swayed to music, oh brightening glance / How can
we know the dancer from the dance?"

"I was born in America in the city of San Francisco on the day when a revolution
broke out there. : Furious crowds raged in the streets." 

THE NEW REPUBLIC:   Her life was indeed like a force of nature in its primitive
energy and strength, like a flame, a wind, a tide flowing and retreating across
all the countries of the world.  This daughter of the western ocean, whose first
knowledge of the movements of the dance came from the jig of an Irish grandmother
who had crossed the plains in a prairie wagon, left everywhere behind her -- in
America, in France, in Germany, in Russia, in Greece -- images of Eternal Woman. 
Subjective yet universal images:   the chaste and lovely dancing maiden; the
grande amoureuse, lover and beloved of all men; the maenad, hurling her knees
upward to the tune of the world's despair and revolution; the mother rejoicing
and abundant, surrounded by joyous children; the mother sorrowing and bereft,
smitten by a cruel fate and driven ever after, bent in a veil of tears and
lamentation.  These are Isadora, legendary already as Sappho, or Helen of Troy,
or Duse, a creature who, for all her earthly passions, seems to live in a dream,
to move to the most lyrical and stern rhythms of the world's great music, to live
in her own body : `like a spirit in a cloud.' 

"I don't believe you. There is no Santa Claus."

GORDON CRAIG:  "People called her a great artist-a Greek goddess-but she was no
such thing.  She was something quite different from anyone and anything else.  I
always thought how Irish she was-which means, how full of a natural genius which
defies description-but she had more than that.  Yet there was the tip-tilted nose
and the little firm chin and the dream in her heart of the Irish who are so sweet
to know.  And in her eye was California, and this eye looked out over Europe and
thought fairly well of what it saw."

JOHN DOS PASSOS:  "She was an American like Walt Whitman; the murdering rulers of
the world were not her people; the marchers were her people; artists were not on
the side of the machineguns; she was an American in a Greek tunic; she was for
the people." 

EDWARD STEICHEN:  "She was one honest-to-god American."

John Sloan, "Isadora in Revolt" (Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art)

WALT WHITMAN:  "The attitude of great poets is to cheer up slaves and horrify
despots.  The turn of their necks, the sound of their feet, the motions of their
wrists, are full of hazard to the one and hope to the other. " 

"The great poets are also to be known by the absence in them of tricks and by the
justification of perfect personal candor."

1898 (Jacob Schloss)

"Let the women of Boston don their golden sandals and their diaphanous draperies,
and go out and dance on Boston Common in the moonlight.  I look forward to the
day when I shall lead the maidens of Boston, clothed in white, with dandelions in
their hair, round Boston Common in the spring.  Bacchic Boston.  Sounds well,
don't you think?" 

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CLIP (1898):  "Whenever in the dance her feet stepped far
apart, one of her legs came forward, right out of that sedate drapery, and was on
transitory view full length and skin-colored. : Miss Duncan, it may be added, had
no idea of the trouble she was about to create." 

"Why don't you look startled?   Don't you think that's interesting?   Listen, I
said:  Boston is Bacchic!  Boston is in the midst of a Bacchic revel!  There! 
That's good copy.  You ought to put it in the headline on the front page:  `Miss
Duncan'- or, `Clever Miss Duncan'- or, `Beautiful'- yes, that's better. 
`Beautiful Miss Duncan Says Boston is Bacchic.' That is enough to make all the
ministers preach special sermons.  They will-you watch."

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH (1909, quoting an association of Methodist ministers): 
"It is to us a matter of exceeding regret that in the name of Charity and before
an audience of character and culture : a performance was given that is a gross
violation of the proprieties of life, and we trust it may never be repeated in
our fair city." 

John Sloan (Milwaukee Museum of Art)

JOHN SLOAN:  "Isadora Duncan!  : It's positively splendid!  I feel that she
dances a symbol of human animal happiness as it should be, free from the
unnatural trammels. : Her great big thighs, her small head, her full solid loins,
belly - clean, all clean - she dances away civilization's tainted brain vapors,
wholly human and holy - part of God."

JOHN BUTLER YEATS:  "People are much divided about her merits, the rival parties
hating each other like the Capulets and the Montagues.  The young girls are full
of enthusiasm for her.  Those a little older puzzled and somewhat shocked, the
elder ladies furious. : The other day there was an enormous house who were as
still as if we were in church, except that no one coughed."

JANET FLANNER:  "Her art, animated by her extraordinary public personality, came
as close to founding an aesthetic renaissance as American morality would allow,
and the provinces especially had a narrow escape. : She arrived like a glorious
bounding Minerva in the midst of a cautious corseted decade." 

PHIL ARMOUR (Chicago meat-packing magnate):  "She's as sweet as one of them beech
nut hams."


Emile-Antoine Bourdelle

MARIE BONFANTI:  "Isadora Duncan?   : Isadora Donkey!  That is not dancing,
whatever enthusiasts may call it." 

H. L. MENCKEN:  "A mass of puerilities, without any more rational basis than golf
or spiritualism.  Isadora simply loved to prance around in a shift; all the rest
was afterthought." 

RAYNER HEPPENSTALL:  "Isadora's Art was, in effect : merely an art of sexual
display, and I would stress the `merely.' : If it flowered, its flowers were of
nothing more substantial than the stuff of methyl flames, wavering, disappearing
in the light, evanescent in the haze through which Isadora looked out on the
world, and never able to achieve, or even to conceive, the peace, the stillness,
into which life must subside when it will form into the round assurance of
bloomed fruit." 

Nice 1926 (Jean Negulesco)

"The great and the only principle on which I feel myself justified in leaning, is
a constant, absolute and universal unity between form and movement, a rhythmic
unity which runs through all the manifestations of nature."

SIR FREDERICK ASHTON:   "I didn't think I'd like it, but I was completely
captivated. : The way she used her hands and arms, the way she ran across a stage
: I got an impression of enormous grace, and enormous power in her dancing.  She
had a wonderful way of running, in which she what I call `left herself behind,'
and you felt the breeze running through her hair and everything else.  And she
had the most beautiful square feet, I remember, and the most impressive hands,
and she wasn't really the old camp that everyone makes her out now, she was very
serious, and held the audience and held them completely."

THE NEW AGE:  "Miss Duncan has ... learned by heart the tale that the Greeks have
left us, and she has followed the Attic dance from statue to bas-relief, from
bas-relief to urn, from tragedy to comedy, from history to commentary. ... She
has strung her beads of learning, cut and polished, on the thread of this
wise-child soul of hers, so bubbling with vehement life, and every bead is a
prayer, and every prayer a song." 

GEORGE BALANCHINE:  "I thought she was awful.  I don't understand it when people
say she was a great dancer.  To me it was absolutely unbelievable-a drunken, fat
woman who for hours was rolling around like a pig.  It was the most awful thing.
: She was probably a nice juicy girl when she was young."

"Mr. B" with Gelsey Kirkland:  "Ballet is Woman!" 

"A false and preposterous art, in fact, outside the pale of all art." 

"For those who still enjoy the [ballet] movements, for historical or
choreographic or whatever other reasons, to those I answer:  They see no farther
than the skirts and tricots.  But look-under the tricots are dancing deformed
muscles.  Look still farther-underneath the muscles are deformed bones.  A
deformed skeleton is dancing before you. : The ballet condemns itself by
enforcing the deformation of the beautiful woman's body!  No historical, no
choreographic reasons can prevail against that!"

"The dancer of the future will have to suit the dance to the symmetry of the

Jose Clara