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Isadora: A Sensational Lifeby Peter Kurth
Synopses & Reviews
Isadora Duncan "arrived like a glorious bounding Minerva in the midst of a cautious corseted decade," said Janet Flanner in the New Yorker (1927), delivering an "electric shock" to western culture. Finally, here is a biography that does justice to the life of this unforgettable woman, the greatest pioneer of modern dance.
Always dazzling, always fabulous, Isadora was the personification of flair, and she was anything but ordinary. Her scandalous behavior, protofeminism, global celebrity, revolutionary politics, and artistic groundbreaking all feel quite modern, yet her public life was played out between the Mauve Decade and the Roaring Twenties. From an unconventional childhood and throughout the years of her flurried life, she pursued a struggle with "Apollo," symbolizing clarity, order, and form, and "Dionysus," expressing all that is wild, yearning, and destructive in human nature. In her wake lay adoration, as well as controversy and outrage.
Never before has Isadora Duncan's life been so thoroughly explored. Acclaimed biographer Peter Kurth recounts this sensational life filled with lavish love affairs, artistic zeal, marvelous performances, and personal tragedies. Kurth allows the free spirit and idiosyncratic personality of this passionate artist to shine through, revealing her dramatic story set against the sweeping backdrop of Europe and the United States in the early twentieth century. Kurth tells of Isadora's longtime love affairs: with English actor and stage director Gordon Craig, father of her daughter, Deidre; with sewing machine heir Paris Singer, father of her son, Patrick; and with Russian poet Sergei Esenin. Also on this tumultuous stage are her many friends and characters, including Auguste Rodin, Jean Cocteau, Edward Steichen, Mary Desti, Mercedes de Acosta, the "Isadorables," and the colorful Duncan family.
Drawing from extensive research of major archival sources in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, including several private archives and unpublished manuscripts, Peter Kurth has created a compelling portrait of an intelligent, complicated, conflicted woman. As the New York Times said of her in 1928: "It is quite certain that no other American woman has so impressed the world outside of America?made such a mighty stir, commanded such a following at home and abroad...left behind her such a legend of personality and such a trail of effects."
"Kurth (Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson) presents an exhaustive march through an exhausting, tragic life, organizing endless material into a coherent chronology. Duncan's contributions to dance are better documented and analyzed elsewhere....Neither a dance history nor a portrait of an era although Duncan knew everyone and participated in everything this book instead offers a meticulous chronology of an extraordinary life." Publishers Weekly
"Kurth...has fashioned a luminous portrait, aglow with the details of Duncan's life and times. Mining the rich lode of Duncan sources her own writings, recollections of her contemporaries, and press coverage of the day Kurth presents as complete a picture of the dance pioneer and proto-feminist as is possible. Although only a few minutes of Duncan's dancing have been preserved on film, the vivid descriptions found here will conjure up moving images of one of the most original figures in dance history." Library Journal
Isadora Duncan is considered by many to be the founder of modern dance. Her name is synonymous with originality, spontaneity, drama, and sensuality. Finally, here is a biography that does justice to the life of this unforgettable woman. Never before has Isadora Duncan been so thoroughly explored. Kurth recounts her sensational life-her many loves, her passion for her art, her sensational performances, and her personal tragedies. Isadora reveals the dramatic story of this passionate artist, set against the sweeping backdrop of Europe and the United States in the early twentieth century.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -627) and index.
About the Author
Peter Kurth is the author of Tsar: The Lost World of Nicholas and Alexander, Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, and American Cassandra: The Life of Dorothy Thompson. He lives in Vermont.
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