Monday, August 30, 2010

Tunics in Texas

Did Isadora Duncan ever dance in Texas? I’m not sure. Certainly the Wild West landscape is more suited to Graham’s American mythology than to Duncan’s romantic vision of ancient priestesses invoking the elements on the rocky shores of Greece.  Not to mention the scarcity of water here—might pose a problem for a dance artist whose entire technique is based on the ebb and flow of wave rhythms.  Of course, there is always the Texas coast (not beach, coast—one of the many learning curves I’ve encountered here in Texas... not to mention the local convention of pronouncing Spanish place names with an American accent). Who knows how inspiring the Texas shoreline might have been a century before offshore drilling?

Yet, there is something in the vastness of the Texas landscape that would have suited Isadora. She did, after all, envision, “America dancing, beautiful, strong, with one foot poised on the highest point of the Rockies, her two hands stretched out from the Atlantic to the Pacific, her fine head tossed to the sky, her forehead shining with a crown of a million stars” (Duncan, The Art of the Dance).  Duncan espoused a lot of opinions—many of them controversial and sometimes contradictory—yet the consistent current supporting her most quotable lines and infamous curtain speeches is a grand sweeping gesture that unabashedly takes up a lot of space.

Isadora Duncan was big. Monumental. Her dance movement propels bodies through space and breathes space through bodies.  Her career spanned continents and her legacy as a dance artist carved an ever-widening wake that is still paving the way for unconventional and innovative movement artists and performers.  She also left behind a dance technique and a legacy of dances that is deep. Duncan’s work has not just breath, but breadth and depth. And I am honored to be a barefooted (cowboy-booted?), tunic-draped body sculpting new pathways through time and space…in Austin, Texas.