Tuesday, 22 October 2013

La Danse - by Carin Perron (1957-2003)

[This year is the tenth anniversary of the death of my wife, Carin Perron. I had intended to write a post about a medallion in my collection, but as Carrie had already written this article, I decided to use it instead. Besides, I could not have done better. It was the cover article in a publication that we produced twenty years ago: "The Informed Collector". 1993 was a couple of years before we had a website, or even owned a computer, and to reflect the time, it appears without hyperlinks. I did, however, include a photo of the medallion at the end of the article]

Isadora Duncan, by Henri Dropsy
Art Nouveau Bronze Medallion, uniface, issued by V. Canale,
1912   100mm, featured on the cover
 This lively little masterpiece catches a moment in the dance of Isadora Duncan in a way that brings her art full circle. Inspired by the dances portrayed on Greek vase painting, Isadora Duncan created the modern dance style that broke away from the codified ballet dance style, towards more natural free-flowing movements expressive of the dancer's inner emotions.

Henri Dropsy, in this medallion, has returned her to her original inspiration: she has become, now, one of the those Greek vase paintings, but,-- vive la différence!

Isadora Duncan (the professional name of Dora Angela Duncan, born May 27, 1878 in San Francisco), was a free spirit, and no stranger to scandal. She lived her life as vigorously as she pursued her dance, and infused her every movement with her own inimitable vitality.

Dropsy here has captured that essence of liveliness: in drawing the medallion for the cover, I found Isadora's pose curiously difficult to capture. There's her leg, now -- no, look-- it's moved upwards; what about her hands? Her fingers flex and relax before the pencil can catch them. She smiles, then looks moodily within, then with a shrug of her shoulder, her tunic shifts, catches the light, and her toes kick toward you. Trying to recreate Dropsy's bas-relief was like wrestling with the Angel: worth the effort, but a surreal struggle.

Isadora Duncan left no codified series of movements, so her dance is lost. Every school she founded (Berlin in 1904, Paris in 1914, Moscow in in 1921, also those in Vienna and elsewhere) has died out. Her two young children died before her in a freak accident; she met a similarly bizarre end.

But the idea that a dancer should mover her body in a natural way; that movement could be inspired by waves, winds, birds, insects, and everything that has life; that the dancer needs no scenery but what she creates with her body that love, like the dance, was not to be fettered, but free; that the impulse of life, the improvisation of the moment was as valid as anything written in a book -- these ideas all live on long after her.

Isadora, herself was known for her diaphonous tunics, inspired by the Greek, her feet bare, her hair unbound, dancing to the music of Beethoven and Gluck. People were scandalized when she had daughter by British stage designer Edward Craig, and then a son by Paris Singer (American heir to a sewing machine fortune). Then, in 1913. when the car her children were ridng in stalled, and the driver got out to crank the engine, accidentally leaving it in gear, and the car rolled into the Seine, where the little ones were drowned, tongues wagged even louder. What kind of mother was this? what kind of woman was this?

She was a woman who went for her dream, and she turned the world of dance upside down. She débuted in Chicago in 1899, then toured Europe and the U.S. in dance recitals. She was tired of artificial forms, and wanted a simple and natural dance. She founded many schools of dance, and had an enormous impact on dancers and choreographers, like Agnes De Mille, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and George Balanchine, and gave rise to the new art of interpretive dancing. Through her influence on Russian-born choreographer Michel Fokine, she greatly influenced 20th century ballet; so, in the end, she enriched the art she was accused of destroying.

She married Russian poet Sergey Yesenin in 1922, but they separated shortly thereafter, She lived in poverty for many years, but made one final dramatic appearance in Paris before her death; then, on September 14, 1927, in Nice, France, she was strangled when her outrageously long flowing scarf (another trademark) caught in the wheel of her car.

She wrote two books: My Life, published in 1927, and The Art of the Dance (a book of essays). Russian-American writer and musician Victor Serov wrote a biography of her entitled, The Real Isadora.

Henri Dropsy, the medallist, was born January 21, 1885, in Paris. Educated at École Nat. Superieure Des Beaux Arts, becoming a professor there in 1930. In 1911, he married Suzanne Boutin; he held the title of officier, Legion d'honneur, and became a member of the Academie Des Beaux Arts, and the Inst. de France in 1942. He is well known for his outstanding medallic art. This bronze medallion is, I believe, transitional from Art Nouveau to Art Deco: the sensuous, organic form is here made stronger by the bold use of space and form.



2 comments:

  1. It is not true that Isadora's dance died with her. Her six adopted daughters, dubbed the "Isadorables," as well as her sister Elizabeth and her school, as well as the students of the Russian school, carried on her work. We have a full body of technique, including traditional exercises, as well as over one hundred dances choreographed by her and her proteges. The Duncan work is alive and well in several hundred Duncan Dancers around the world today - US, Canada, Japan, Brazil, France, Sweden, England, Russia, Germany, Italy and more. See the Isadora Duncan International Institute, Isadora Duncan Foundation, Isadora Duncan International Symposium, and many other resources that affirm the relevancy and vitality of her work today.

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  2. Thank you for the correction, Valerie!

    Cheers,

    John

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