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WOW

Anne Hollander, 10 March 1994

Life into Art: Isadora Duncan and Her World 
edited by Dorée Duncan, Carol Pratl and Cynthia Splatt.
Norton, 198 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 393 03507 7
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... Isadora Duncan refused to be filmed while she danced. The most eager prophet of modern bodily movement avoided the great new vessel of the truth a motion – unwilling, it would seem, to do without the audience rapport that was indispensable to her success. Her reluctance went with her noticeably religious attitude toward her own dancing, and toward art in general ...

To the Great God Pan

Laura Jacobs: Goddess Isadora, 23 October 2013

My Life: The Restored Edition 
by Isadora Duncan.
Norton, 322 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 87140 318 6
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... There is only one piece of film that shows Isadora Duncan dancing.* It is four seconds long, the very end of a performance, and it is followed by eight seconds in which Duncan accepts applause. This small celluloid footprint – light-struck in the manner of Eugène Atget – contains quite a bit of information ...

Olga Knipper

Virginia Llewellyn Smith, 7 February 1980

Chekhov’s Leading Lady 
by Harvey Pitcher.
Murray, 288 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 7195 3681 2
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... the Moscow Art Theatre. There are lighter moments: notably, an account of a dinner-party involving Isadora Duncan, Gordon Craig, Stanislavsky and Olga Knipper. We don’t know what the two Russians thought of Craig locking himself and his secretary into the bedroom in the middle of the meal, but clearly for once they were both upstaged. For the rest, this ...

Seductress Extraordinaire

Terry Castle: The vampiric Mercedes de Acosta, 24 June 2004

‘That Furious Lesbian’: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta 
by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 210 pp., £16.95, June 2004, 0 8093 2579 9
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Women in Turmoil: Six Plays 
by Mercedes de Acosta, edited by Robert Schanke.
Southern Illinois, 252 pp., £26.95, June 2003, 0 8093 2509 8
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... she managed to bed just about everybody who was anybody in the sapphic world of her time: from Isadora Duncan, Alla Nazimova, Pola Negri, Tamara Karsavina, Katharine Cornell, Marie Laurencin, Michael Strange and Eva Le Gallienne in the 1920s and 1930s to Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Hope Williams, Libby Holman, Ona Munson (Belle Watling in Gone with ...

Diamonds on your collarbone

Anne Hollander, 10 September 1992

Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham 
by Agnes DeMille.
Hutchinson, 509 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 09 175219 1
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Blood Memory: An Autobiography 
by Martha Graham.
Macmillan, 279 pp., £20, March 1992, 0 333 57441 9
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... and perhaps it was time; her debut as a creative solo performer had been in 1926, when Isadora Duncan and even Loïe Fuller were still alive. But she didn’t die. She recovered, gave up drink, re-dyed her hair and had her face lifted; but without the ability to channel her work through her own flesh, she swiftly became an icon and an ...

I’m with the Imaginists

Tony Wood: The memoirs of an early Soviet poet, 7 March 2002

A Novel without Lies 
by Anatoly Mariengof, translated by José Alaniz.
Glas, 192 pp., £8.99, August 2001, 1 56663 302 8
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... of NEP, describes their drifting apart after 1922, with Esenin’s brief, unstable marriage to Isadora Duncan and subsequent decline into alcoholism, and ends with a movingly laconic account of Esenin’s last days, before his suicide in 1925. The public didn’t like Mariengof’s version of Esenin – largely because Esenin became even more popular ...

The Powyses

D.A.N. Jones, 7 August 1980

After My Fashion 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 286 pp., £2.50, June 1980, 0 330 26049 9
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Weymouth Sands 
by John Cowper Powys.
Picador, 567 pp., £2.95, June 1980, 0 330 26050 2
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Recollections of the Powys Brothers 
edited by Belinda Humfrey.
Peter Owen, 288 pp., £9.95, May 1980, 0 7206 0547 4
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John Cowper Powys and David Jones: A Comparative Study 
by Jeremy Hooker.
Enitharmon, 54 pp., £3.75, April 1979, 0 901111 85 6
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The Hollowed-Out Elder Stalk 
by Roland Mathias.
Enitharmon, 158 pp., £4.85, May 1979, 0 901111 87 2
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John Cowper Powys and the Magical Quest 
by Morine Krissdottir.
Macdonald, 218 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 354 04492 3
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... clergyman’s son pondering the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution and his friendship with Isadora Duncan – and his own adolescent attitude to life, unusual in a man in his late forties. The hero of After My Fashion is a self-portrait. Richard Storm has returned to Sussex from Paris, where he has made a name for himself with his critical ...

Hääyöaie?

Don Coles, 5 June 1986

Sphinx 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 248 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 575 03611 7
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... well. Much talk of improvisatore, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, small or big tits, Akhmatova, Isadora Duncan, suspenders etc. ‘I asked him if he didn’t think it was slightly immoral, mixing reality and fiction,’ one character confides, and inside Thomas’s text the subversive query is triumphantly squashed (‘the trouble with most novels ...

At the Courtauld

Anne Wagner: Rodin and Dance, 17 November 2016

... partly by deploying photographs of the dancers he knew well: Loïe Fuller, Ruth St Denis and Isadora Duncan. It would be hard to assemble a more fascinating set of early 20th-century performers, or a more talismanic group of images. The photographs at the Courtauld were chosen from hundreds owned by Rodin; they all captured dancers he admired and ...

If my sister’s arches fall

Laura Jacobs: Agnes de Mille, 5 October 2016

Dance to the Piper 
by Agnes de Mille.
NYRB, 368 pp., £11.99, February 2016, 978 1 59017 908 6
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... to wreck my body on the earth … It is no accident that California produced our greatest dancers, Duncan and Graham, and fostered the work of St Denis, Doris Humphrey, Maracci and Collins. The eastern states sit in their folded scenery, tamed and remembering, but in California the earth and sky clash, and space is dynamic. Back in New York, after seeing the ...

Exit Humbug

David Edgar: Theatrical Families, 1 January 2009

A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 620 pp., £25, September 2008, 978 0 7011 7987 8
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... same enthusiasm. Edward Gordon Craig fathered 13 children with eight different women, including Isadora Duncan. (When his and Isadora’s daughter, Deirdre, drowned in the Seine after a motoring accident, Craig failed to attend the funeral.) Like a number of his contemporaries, he welcomed the rise of Mussolini and ...

A Broad Grin and a Handstand

E.S. Turner: ‘the fastest woman in the world’ and the wild early years of motor-racing, 24 June 2004

The Bugatti Queen: In Search of a Motor-Racing Legend 
by Miranda Seymour.
Simon and Schuster, 301 pp., £15.99, February 2004, 0 7432 3146 5
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... went down well with the crowd, but it was an insane feat. An errant scarf had already strangled Isadora Duncan in her Amilcar on the Promenade des Anglais at Nice. Then it was back to driving for Bugatti, or Alfa Romeo, or any other firm that showed interest in a driver ready to do handstands on the bonnets of its victorious cars. For her own ...

My wife brandishes circle and line

Anne Wagner: Sophie Taeuber-Arp, 6 December 2018

Sophie Taeuber-Arp and the Avant Garde: A Biography 
by Roswitha Mair, translated by Damion Searls.
Chicago, 222 pp., £41.50, September 2018, 978 0 226 31121 0
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... seem to have been less important to Taeuber than her encounters with contemporary dance. When Isadora Duncan performed in Munich, she was in the audience. After war broke out in 1914, she moved to Zurich, where she joined Rudolf von Laban’s dance school and became a key member of his troupe. In the early years of the war Zurich was home to a ...

Tomorrow they’ll boo

John Simon: Strindberg, 25 October 2012

Strindberg: A Life 
by Sue Prideaux.
Yale, 371 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 0 300 13693 7
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... followed reclusiveness and misanthropy. ‘I never go anywhere. I hate human beings,’ he told Isadora Duncan. One might say that his was either the maddest form of sanity or the sanest form of madness. Arthur Miller called him ‘the mad inventor of modern theatre’, in a useful oversimplification. Carl Larsson’s portrait of Strindberg, on the ...

Say hello to Rodney

Peter Wollen: How art becomes kitsch, 17 February 2000

The Artificial Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience 
by Celeste Olalquiaga.
Bloomsbury, 321 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 7475 4535 9
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... mansion in which every room had been named after a supposed turn-of-the-century guest – Isadora Duncan, Enrico Caruso, Luisa Tetrazzini – and decorated in an appropriate style. She climbed laboriously up to a small ‘chamber’ – it was the Jack London room – in one of the mansion’s towers where, among a plethora of nautical ...

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