Dear Lulu Baker,
Isadora Duncan (May 26, 1877 - September 14, 1927) was a dancer, considered by many to be the creator of modern dance. Born in the United States, she lived in Europe and the Soviet Union from the age of 22 until her death at age 50. In the United States she was popular only in New York, and then only later in her life. She performed to acclaim throughout Europe.
Duncan's fondness for flowing scarves was the cause of her death in a freak automobile accident in Nice, France. Duncan's large silk scarf, while still draped around her neck, became entangled around one of the vehicle's open-spoked wheels and rear axle, breaking her neck.
Montparnasse's developing Bohemian environment did not suit her. In 1909 Duncan moved to two large apartments at 5 rue Danton, where she lived on the ground floor and used the first floor for her dance school. She rejected traditional ballet steps to stress improvisation, emotion and the human form. Duncan believed that classical ballet, with its strict rules of posture and formation, was "ugly and against nature"; she gained a wide following that allowed her to set up a school to teach.
Duncan became so famous that she inspired artists and authors to create sculpture, jewelry, poetry, novels, photographs, watercolors, prints and paintings of her. When the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées was built in 1913, her likeness was carved in its bas-relief over the entrance by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and included in painted murals of the nine muses by Maurice Denis in the auditorium.
In 1916 Duncan traveled to Brazil and performed at Rio de Janeiro's Theatro Municipal in August and at São Paulo's Teatro Municipal on September 2, 3 and 5 with pianist Maurice Dumesnil. Writer and journalist Paulo Barreto, known as João do Rio, claimed to have seen her dance "naked" in the forest of Tijuca, in front of Rio's most famous waterfall.
In 1922 she acted on her sympathy for the social and political revolution in the new Soviet Union and moved to Moscow. She cut a striking figure in the increasingly austere post-revolution capital, but her international prominence brought welcome attention to the new regime's artistic and cultural ferment. The Russian government's failure to follow through on extravagant promises of support for Duncan's work, combined with the country's spartan living conditions, sent her back to the West in 1924.
Throughout her career Duncan did not like the commercial aspects of public performance, regarding touring, contracts and other practicalities as distractions from her real mission: the creation of beauty and the education of the young. A gifted, if unconventional pedagogue, she was the founder of three schools dedicated to teaching her dance philosophy to groups of young girls (a brief effort to include boys was unsuccessful). The first, in Grunewald, Germany, gave rise to her most celebrated troupe of pupils, dubbed the Isadorables, who took her surname and subsequently performed both with Duncan and independently. The second school was short lived prior to World War I at a château outside Paris. She founded the third while in Moscow in the wake of the Russian Revolution.
Duncan's teaching and her pupils caused her both pride and anguish. Her sister, Elizabeth Duncan, took over the German school and adapted it to the Teutonic philosophy of her German husband. The Isadorables were subject to ongoing hectoring from Duncan over their willingness to perform commercially; Lisa Duncan was permanently ostracized for performing in nightclubs. The most notable of the group, Irma Duncan, remained in the Soviet Union after Isadora Duncan's departure. She ran the school there, angering her mentor Duncan by allowing students to perform in public and commercial venues.