Duncan, Isadora

DANCER (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA)
BORN 26 May 1877, San Francisco, California - DIED 14 Sep 1927, Nice: Boulevard des Anglais, in front of the Negresco hotel
REAL NAME Duncan, Isabella Theodora
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 87 (columbarium, case 6796))

Isadora Duncan was the daughter of a bank owner and art lover, Joseph Charles Duncan (1819-1898) and a music teacher, Mary Isadora Gray (1849-1922). Soon after her death her father went bankrupt and her parents divorced.

Her family was very poor and from an early age Isadora taught other children dancing and in 1888 she left school to earn more money with teaching. In 1889 she started dancing in a theatre that was opened by John Augustin and by 1892 she was registered as a dance teacher in Oakland. In 1894 she became a dance teacher in San Francisco.

She dated the poet and painter Ivan Miroski in 1895 before she moved on to New York. There she worked with Jane May for John Augustin's Daly's Theatre Company. In 1897 she went to England, where she studied ballet with Katti Lanner. In 1898 she danced to the music of Ethelbert Woodbridge Nevin at Carnegie Hall in New York. In 1899 she returned to London where she heard of Miroski's death.

From London she went to Paris, whe she studied the art in the Louvre and met people like Auguste Rodin and Eugène Carrière. She joined the company of Loie Fuller and toured Germany and Austria. In 1902 she was contracted in Budapest at Urania Theatre. There she had a love affair with the actor Oscar Beregi (1876-1965).

She performed all over Europe and danced in "Tannhauser" in Bayreuth. There she befriended Heinrich Thode, the husband of Cosima Wagner's daughter Daniela. In 1904 she opened a dance school in Grünewald in Berlin. In 1905 she met the scenic designer Edward Gordon Craig and they became lovers. In 1906 they had a daughter, Deirdre. In 1907 their relationship ended.

In 1908 she toured Russia and in that same year she performed in the USA. Back in France she bought a house in Neuilly near Paris. She met Eugene Singer, the son of Isaac Merritt Singer, and together they travelled to Italy. Their son Patrick Augustus Duncan was born in 1910. Early in life she had decided against marriage and she didn't marry the father of her second child like she didn't marry the father of her first.

Some years of touring followed until disaster struck in 1913. Her children Deirdre and Patrick and their nurse Annie Sim died after the car they were in drove backwards into the river Seine in Paris.

In 1914 Eugene Singer bought her a hotel in Bellevu for her new dancing school. Rodin often visited the school to sketch her pupils. Another son, this time by an Italian sculptor, was born in 1914 but he died soon after his birth. In 1916 she toured in South America with pianist Maurice Dumesnil. In 1918 the pianist Walter Morse Rummel (1887-1953) became her lover, but their affair ended in 1921 after he had seduced one of her pupils.

In 1921 she was invited to open a dance school in Moscow. In 1922 she married the poet Sergei Alexandrovich Esenin (1895-1925) and with him she went to several European contries and to the USA. Back in the USSR she left Essenin in 1923. In 1925 she returned to France. By this time she was in serious financial trouble and in 1927 she decided to publish memoirs. But on 14 Sep 1927 she suddenly died in Nice after her hand painted silk scarf became entangled in a wheel of the car that she was in.

Four thousand people attented her funeral. Her ashes were buried in the columbarium of Père Lachaise in Paris.

Related persons
• knew Carrière, Eugène
• was painted by Kaulbach, Friedrich August von
• was pupil to Lanner, Katti
• was painted by Max, Colombo
• was a friend of Rodin, Auguste

Sources
• Reeth, Adelaïde van & Guido Peeters, Herinneringen in Steen, De Haan/Unieboek, Houten, 1988

Images

The niche of Isadora Duncan at the columbarium at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (28 Aug 2001)

 

The niches of Isadora Duncans children Patrick and Deirdre at the columbarium at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (28 Aug 2001)

 


Dupuis, Toon

Published: 24 Oct 2009
Last update: 18 Oct 2014