Isadora Duncan and Modernism Research Paper

Isadora Duncan and Modernism
An exploration of Isadora Duncan's dance style and its position within modernism.
# 153562 | 3,931 words | 16 sources | MLA | 2012 | IN
Published on Jun 13, 2013 in Women Studies (General) , Dance (General)

$19.95 Buy and instantly download this paper now


This paper explores the dance of Isadora Duncan and argues that she was a modernist in the way she looked to Greece for inspiration, in the way that she aligned herself through her dances and manifestoes with movements such as expressionism, futurism and Cubism, and in her costume. Furthermore, the paper discusses how we see her modernism in her speeches after her performances, in her rebellion against ballet, in her self-presentation as a unified being against the fragmentation and catastrophe which characterized the era of Modernism and in her essays which were an effort to explicate her techniques to her audience. Finally, the paper examines her portrayal of her body on stage, her efforts to present her dance as a coherent entity and her reconfiguration of the spiritual in connection with dance and shows how they each represented the movement of modernism.

From the Paper:

"According to Terry Mester, the image of the dance and the dancer is bound up
in Modernism's "language experiment" and is capable of expressing something that
eludes verbal utterance. Arthur Symons remarked that in the dance, "there is no
intrusion of words used for the irrelevant purpose of describing: a world rises before
one, the picture lasts only long enough to have been there" .
"The dance and the dancer were two of the several important symbols for Yeats.
For him, life and art are resolved in an ideal unity represented by the dance and the
dancer. Dance was also ritualistic for him - a medium and symbol for the
transformation of the individual to a higher state of spiritual being (infact, Modernism
was characterized by a conjunction between materiality and spirituality).However, he
disliked ballet dancers:"I spit upon their short bodices, their stiff stays, their toes
whereupon they spin like peg-tops, above all that chambermaid face" .Instead, the
dancer that he admired was not corseted and did not dance rigidly or without
flexibility, but moved freely, symbolising unity and wholeness. He shared with the
later Romantics a preference for the unschooled dancer over a trained ballerina
because the former's dance is "more likely to have form, the ballerina's only shape" .
He saw symbolicpower imbued within the freely-moving dancing body.Yeats' father
- J.B. Yeats - attended a dance performance by Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) in New
York in 1908 and wrote, "Isadora Duncan danced all alone on this immense stage -
and felt the charm of powerful self-containment" ."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. N. p.: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
  • Badiou, Alain. A Handbook of Inaesthetics. Stanford: StanfUniv Press,2005. Print
  • Copeland, Roger. What is Dance? New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Print.
  • Duncan, Isadora. My Life. London: Sphere Books, 1988. Print.
  • Duncan, Isadora. The Art of the Dance. New York: Oxford University Press. 1991. Print.

Cite this Research Paper:

APA Format

Isadora Duncan and Modernism (2013, June 13) Retrieved August 18, 2022, from

MLA Format

"Isadora Duncan and Modernism" 13 June 2013. Web. 18 August. 2022. <>