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Who is Isadora Duncan?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Dora Angela Duncan was born 26 May 1877 in San Francisco California. Known to the world as Isadora Duncan, she is regarded as the Mother of Modern Dance. Isadora grew up with her mother and sister in a poor suburban home. After her father abandoned the family, all three women were forced to work. The children became impromptu dance teachers while the mother taught piano lessons.

Isadora Duncan was never a conventional child. Raised as an atheist by her mother and taught that individualism is more important than public acceptance, she eventually dropped out of school and moved to Europe by the beginnings of the 20th century. In Paris, Isadora Duncan opened her own school of dance, which she intended to be "as different to the ugly style of classic ballet as possible." She became wildly acclaimed not only among dancers, but also to the eyes of sculptors, writers, and other artists. By 1910, Isadora Duncan was already considered a living icon.

In Moscow, Isadora Duncan met and briefly married Sergei Yesenin.
In Moscow, Isadora Duncan met and briefly married Sergei Yesenin.

Isadora's private life was marked by a series of scandals. She had two children out of wedlock, one with married theater designer Gordon Craig and one with sewing machine magnate Paris Singer. Both of her children tragically drowned when the car they were in rolled into the river Seine in 1913.

Isadora Duncan had a passionate affair with Spanish-American poet, Mercedes de Acosta. She has also been linked to actress Eleonora Duse and writer Natalie Barney. Isadora Duncan made it public knowledge that she was bisexual, eliciting a scandal when she proclaimed it on a stage in Boston, during her 1922-1923 tour. After this, Isadora Duncan lived briefly in Moscow, where she met and married 28-year-old poet Sergei Yesenin. The marriage lasted only a few months, after which Isadora returned to Europe.

As years went by, Isadora's career dwindled, mostly because of her refusal to perform commercially and her public displays of drunkenness. Troubled by debts, she was encouraged by friends to write an autobiography, but never actually finished it. Isadora Duncan died of strangulation on 14 September, 1927, when her scarf got caught on the wheel of a friend's car. Her autobiography, My Life, was published a few years later.

Discussion Comments


I am learning about Isadora Duncan and I think she is really weird.


@snowywinter: Thanks for that additional information!


I just wanted to provide a little more in depth information regarding Duncan’s background. She was the youngest of four children to her parents Joseph Charles and Dora Gray Duncan. When her parents got married, her father already had four children of his own. He was thirty years older than Duncan’s mother was.

Her mother was a music teacher and pianist and her father was a poet. Her father supported the family by publishing three newspapers, directing an auction business, owning an art gallery, owning a bank, and running a lottery. After the bank went under, he abandoned the family.

If you ever have the opportunity to read the Isadora Duncan Biography, you will love it.

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    • In Moscow, Isadora Duncan met and briefly married Sergei Yesenin.
      By: S_E
      In Moscow, Isadora Duncan met and briefly married Sergei Yesenin.