Dances from the Repertory of Isadora Duncan

By most recent count, there are 80 dances from the Duncan repertory that have been handed down through generations of Duncan Dancers, from Isadora to her adopted daughters, from teacher to student, dancer to dancer, company to company, in the “oral history” tradition of learning from one’s experienced elders.

Lori Belilove on her approach to the repertory:

"In academic circles we frequently present the Duncan Repertory in the context of Dance History or Modern Dance Technique. Of course the dances shine in any context, too—the response of the public throughout the decades has proven that their appeal is surprisingly timeless and universal. I often develop programs and stage performances to suit a specific occasion. Indoor or outdoor settings, the theme of an event, the age group or the nationality of an audience, even world affairs can be reflected in the diversity of Isadora’s work. When we are at war and are mourning, when we triumph and celebrate, when we yearn for private intimacy or want to embrace the world, her voice finds ways to reach us.

Moreover, Duncan dance is rooted in the themes of nature—the wind, the surf, the streams, the flight of birds and the gallop of horses, the pounding of a thunderstorm. Light, sound and energy move in waves, just like water does, and all of these undulations resonate throughout the repertory."

Major Themes and Signature Dances from the Repertory of Isadora Duncan

  • The Lyrical Years (1900-1910)
    Themes of nature set as autobiographical dance poems to the music of Chopin (waltzes, preludes, and mazurkas) and Schubert (waltzes).
    Repertory: Water Study, Ballspiel, Lullabye (Schubert) and  Prelude, Line Mazurka, Moment Musical, Butterfly Etude (Chopin)

  • Dances Inspired by Greek Antiquity (1900-1915)
    Repertory inspired by sculpture, vase paintings, bas reliefs and mythology: Narcissus (Chopin), The Three Graces, Tanagra, Classical Duet (Schubert), and works set to music from C.W. Gluck operas: Morning Star, Musette, Bacchanal, Allegretto, Feather Gavotte, Air Gai-Lento-Air Gai, Garlands, Dance of the Amazons, Dance of the Priestesses, Dance of the Furies and Tormented Souls, Orpheus' Lament, Dance of the Blessed Spirits, The Cherubim in the Land of the Happy Dead and three movements from Schubert’s 9th Symphony, The Great in homage to the gods Apollo and Dionysius and the goddess Artemis.

  • Love and Art: Dances of Passion and Romance (1908-1915)
    Isadora’s constant battle to reconcile her love life and her art led her to create works unleashing her torment and affirming her womanhood.
    Repertory: The Many Faces of Love (Brahms Waltzes) including Lullabye, Frolic, Cymbals, Gypsy with Scarf, Flames of the Heart, Lovers, Rose Petals. The Ave Maria (Schubert) and Gypsy Mazurka, Death and The Maiden, and Ballspiel, set to music by Chopin.

  • The Heroic and Monumental Dances (1912-1920)
    Isadora's heroic statements in response to World War I and her dances of lamentation, despair, and renewal following the death of her children.
    Repertory: Marche Heroique (set to music from Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony), Rakoczy March (Berlioz), The Marseilles (French National Anthem), Les Funerailles (Lizst), Marche Funebre, Military Polonaise and Nocturne Duet (all Chopin).

  • The Later Years, including Impressions of Soviet Russia (1912-1925)
    These dances were created in response to the Russian Revolution and were Duncan's most political works.
    Repertory: The Russian Worker Songs: Varshovianka and Dubinushka, Mother, Revolutionary, and The Crossing at St. Petersburg (all to music of Scriabin) and the famous Marche Slav (Tchaikovsky).