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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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... IsadoraDuncan 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 ...

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 IsadoraDuncan 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. It is an afternoon recital, early in the 20th century, and it ...

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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... loss is the most sombre theme in Harvey Pitcher’s history of Knipper’s life with Chekhov and the Moscow Art Theatre. There are lighter moments: notably, an account of a dinner-party involving IsadoraDuncan, 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 ...
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 some doubtless thought she should. Her performances were becoming limited and her behaviour embarrassing, and perhaps it was time; her debut as a creative solo performer had been in 1926, when IsadoraDuncan 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 ...

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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... chapters, the book follows their adventures in Moscow during the Civil War and the early years of NEP, describes their drifting apart after 1922, with Esenin’s brief, unstable marriage to IsadoraDuncan 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 – ...

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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... these later incarnations to a new writer, a middle-aged man with much experience behind him, a Victorian clergyman’s son pondering the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution and his friendship with IsadoraDuncan – 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 ...
5 June 1986
Sphinx 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 248 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 575 03611 7
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... and the sphinx herself, Nadia, who is certainly an actress and a beauty and may be a KGB agent as well. Much talk of improvisatore, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, small or big tits, Akhmatova, IsadoraDuncan, 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 ...

At the Courtauld

Anne Wagner: Rodin and Dance

17 November 2016
... nude in a tripod position’ (c.1900) This sharply focused show brings Rodin’s complex process alive, partly by deploying photographs of the dancers he knew well: Loïe Fuller, Ruth St Denis and IsadoraDuncan. 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 ...

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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... the only acquaintance to nickname her ‘Countess Dracula’. Yet such was de Acosta’s sinister allure she managed to bed just about everybody who was anybody in the sapphic world of her time: from IsadoraDuncan, 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 ...

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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... in the West: The descending grassy slopes filled me with a passion to run, to roll in delirium, 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 ...

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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... repeated acknowledgement of his talent, when it comes to Terry’s children, he is unable to summon the same enthusiasm. Edward Gordon Craig fathered 13 children with eight different women, including IsadoraDuncan. (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 ...

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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... depression. Periods of intense productivity rapidly succeeded others of total fallowness; amiability followed reclusiveness and misanthropy. ‘I never go anywhere. I hate human beings,’ he told IsadoraDuncan. 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 ...

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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... artists formed Der Blaue Reiter, a precursor to German Expressionism. Yet their forays into abstraction seem to have been less important to Taeuber than her encounters with contemporary dance. When IsadoraDuncan 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 ...
22 November 1990
... a small, mute audience who have paid five levs each for the right not to applaud. On come four muscular, blond-rinsed girls, who go through a mixed routine, from rough-hewn disco-dancing to some IsadoraDuncan stuff. They are well-drilled, energetic, and a long way from tickling the erotic; there is also something not quite right about them. Then, abruptly, one girl goes up on her left foot and ...

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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... Rodney’. She first encountered Rodney, as she recounts, in a San Francisco bed and breakfast, a Victorian mansion in which every room had been named after a supposed turn-of-the-century guest – IsadoraDuncan, 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 ...

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