While Isadora Duncan may have never flown into Austin Bergstrom International Airport, she did fly through Russia…or crash land, anyway, flying out of Moscow en route to Berlin in the fall of 1924. Duncan, unscathed, walked away from that small plane’s failed take-off, and she even led an impromptu dance class for gathered bystanders.
Duncan’s history with Russia was long and intimate. Books have been written, documenting only the Russian years of her life. She first danced in Russia in 1904, astonishing St. Petersburg and significantly influencing the artistic sensibilities of Fokine and Diaghilev while developing artistic camaraderies with Pavlova and Nijinski. She also inspired a group of seven young Russian women to develop their own tunic-draped movement technique, forming a company called Heptachor to explore the interrelatedness of movement, music, and ancient Greek philosophy.
|Sans tunic, but with glasses at|
Tolstoy's estate in 2008
In 1905, Duncan debuted in Moscow, prompting theatre innovator Constantin Stanislavsky to declare himself a “newly baptized disciple of the great artist” (Stanislavsky, My Life in Art), and to develop an artistic friendship with the dancer that included talk of Duncan dance as part of the Moscow Art Theatre (MXAT) school curriculum. Duncan never taught at MXAT, but she did found a school in Moscow in 1921 at the invitation of then Commissar for Education Anatoly Lunacharsky. She also married the infamous Russian nationalist poet, Sergei Esenin, and brought him with her on her last tour to the United States.
Duncan is well-remembered in Russia, oddly more so than in her native United States, and that is what makes travel to Russia as an Isadora Duncan dancer even more rewarding.
Terpsichore in Taurus
Today, I land in Moscow, for my fourth visit to Russia! In the fall of 1997, I spent three months living in Moscow as a student at the MXAT theatre school, in a study-abroad program sponsored by the Eugene O’Neil Theatre Center. I returned to Moscow in the summer of 2005 with Lori Belilove & Company for festival performances commemorating the centennial of Duncan’s appearance in Moscow. In 2007 I joined three Duncan-influenced companies from Moscow for performances in the ancient Greek ruin of Chersonesos on the Black Sea in Crimea. That trip led to a 2008 Moscow visit, during which I facilitated a movement workshop for hospital volunteers.
This week, in 2010, I return to Moscow, for a conference of scholarship, performances, and workshops sponsored by Moscow State University and Heptachor. “Free Poetry and Free Dance: Embodied Sense in Motion” takes place October 1,2,3. Visit Heptachor for more information on the conference. Austinites, if you happen to be in Moscow on Saturday, October 2nd, or know anyone who is, check out the performances at PROET_FABRIKA, Moscow’s first factory-turned exhibition and performance space.