Isadora Duncan, 1877-1927

  • Isadora-Duncan-WWP

Woman Category: Arts and Theater & CinemaWoman Tags: Dancer and SF Bay Area Women

  • HerStory

    Mother of the Modern Dance and one of the first famous worldwide modern dancers.

    Isadora Duncan was an avant-garde dancer with a novel freestyle which became today’s modern dance, who lived an extraordinary life in all aspects. She was born in 1887 in San Francisco, California, to a family with great appreciation and love of the arts. Her siblings became artists as well.
    After her parents got divorced, her mother moved with the family to Oakland and worked as a tailor and a piano teacher to support them. Since the family was very poor, Duncan began teaching dance lessons to children in the neighborhood throughout her teenage years. Her unique style was already evident in those early years teaching improvisation and freestyle dance.
    At 19, she started her career as a professional dancer but quickly found that her vision of the art of dance collided with the strict rules of formal dance. From her point of view, the movements of the classical ballet were unnatural, with their exact, pre-written, none fluid, rigid moves. That’s in addition to the uncomfortable corsets and point shoes which were even less natural to the body and its nature. In her vision, each step and movement must be born from the other in an organic succession.
    Her dancing defined the force of progress, change, abstraction and liberation. The concept of the natural movement of the body was the main key of her unique style, a concept she was willing to take to the edge, and which earned her the fortune and fame she is remembered for to this day.
    In 1898 she moved to London, where she began performing privately for the wealthy. Her earnings enabled her to rent a studio and develop a grander stage performance. From London, she moved to Paris, and there she attended the Louvre and the Exposition Universelle of 1900. Those experiences had inspired her greatly. The Louvre for its ancient Greek art exposition was a milestone in her vision, and the loosened Greek robe and bare feet became her most identifiable trademark and affected the future of dance.
    From there on Duncan traveled across Europe and the Americas, performing in her innovative style and developing its technique. Though she became popular and successful, she sought to accomplish her true mission to educate the young. In 1904 she opened her first school in Berlin, and there she taught her vision of dance to young women. Six of her students became the “Isadorables” dance group and continued her legacy. She also adopted them, and they all took her last name. In 1914, Duncan returned to the US and established a school in NYC.
    She died in 1927 in Nice, France in a strange accident when her scarf became entangled around the open-spoke wheels and rear axle, pulling her from the open car and breaking her neck.

    “The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul”

    “The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • Duncan’s charterer was portrayed in many books, films, ballets, theater stages, and music.
    • In medicine, the “Isadora Duncan Syndrome” refers to the exact injury she suffered from and which killed her.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books by her and about her
    * Films about her story

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

    No Records Found

    Sorry, no records were found. Please adjust your search criteria and try again.

    Google Map Not Loaded

    Sorry, unable to load Google Maps API.


  • Woman Tags: Dancer, SF Bay Area Women

    Who was Isadora Duncan? Isadora Duncan Dances and Dance Technique

    The first of a series of videos that will educate viewers about who Isadora Duncan was and the dances she choreographed. The series will teach about Isadora Duncan's dance technique and demonstrate the themes about which she danced. Isadora Duncan's choreography as danced by isadoraNOW will be used to demonstrate the technique and the inspiration behind Isadora Duncan's work. As it evolves, the series will elaborate on Isadora Duncan's legacy in the modern dances of today and the work that isadoraNOW does to continue that legacy.

    Narrated by isadoraNOW director and fifth generation Isadora Duncan dancer, Elyssa Dru Rosenberg.

    For more information, visit:

    All photographs of Isadora Duncan and music in this video are in the public domain.

  • Photo credit - Bain Collection @ Library of Congress.

  • Citations and Additional References:
    Isadora Duncan website.
    Wikipedia page.