MAY 27: Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)


The famed
dancer Isadora Duncan was born on this day in 1877. She is remembered as “The
Mother of Dance” as well as for causing scandal wherever she went by being an
openly bisexual communist and atheist.


Isadora Duncan photographed in London some time between 1906 and 1912 (x).

Angela Isadora
Duncan was born on May 26, 1877 in San Francisco, California. She was the
youngest of four children born to Joseph and Mary Duncan. Her father worked as
a successful banker for most of his life, but it was not long after Isadora’s
birth that he was exposed for corruption and the family was thrown into
poverty. Her parents would eventually divorce and her mother would move
she and the children to Oakland, California and take up work as a seamstress
and piano teacher. It was the family’s financial troubles that would ultimately
introduce Isadora to dance; she and her siblings dropped out of school early on
and taught dance to local children in order to make money.

She began to
pursue dance as a serious career in 1896 when she joined the Augustin Daly
theater company and moved to New York City. Isadora’s approach to dance was very
nontraditional, though, and she quickly became disillusioned with the New York
dance circuit’s strict reliance on the traditional pantomime style. She moved
to London in 1898 and became a freelance performer, dancing and traveling
around Europe for wealthy patrons. She would soon become a staple of
European art society and a muse to several celebrities such as occultist
Aleister Crowley, fashion designer Paul Poiret, and photographer Eadweard

Isadora had
relationships with men and women throughout her life. She had three children
all out of wedlock and with different men, but all three would tragically die
before reaching adulthood. Her lovers included the famous actress Eleonora
Duse, early feminist activist Lina Poletti, and the writer Mercedes de Acosta.
The letters between her and Mercedes are the most well-preserved out of all her romantic correspondences. In one, Isadora wrote, “Mercedes, lead me with your little strong
hands and I will follow you – to the top of a mountain. To the end of the
world. Wherever you wish.”

Once her dance
career began to wind down in her later years, it was Isadora’s scandalous love
life for which she became most famous for. She would pass away in a tragic
accent on September 14, 1927 in Nice, France. While riding in an Amilcar
automobile of a friend, her long scarf became trapped in its open-spoked
wheels; she was pulled out of the car and broke her neck. She was cremated and
her ashes placed next to those of her late children.