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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

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ISBN-10:  0316507261
ISBN-13:  978-0316507264
Author:  Peter Kurth
Genre:  Biographies & Memoirs
Publisher:  Little, Brown
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review by . September 30, 2008
I was sparked to read more about Isadora Duncan based on the mini-bio in John Dos Passos' U.S.A.: The 42nd Parallel / 1919 / The Big Money (Library of America).    Bizarre woman. Passable popular biography, but really strange woman.
review by . January 02, 2002
Here is an excellent biography of someone whose life combined artistic achievement with personal dysfunction. Arguably the creator of what we now refer to as "modern dance," Isadora Duncan certainly filled her "sensational" personal life with a series of adventures and misadventures while struggling to sustain a career during which so many of her knowledgeable contemporaries praised her artistic talents and achievements. Consider these comments:"I got an impression of enormous grace, and enormous …
Isadora: A Sensational Life
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