Dance in Time: May/June Birthdays
Fred Astaire, born Frederick Austerlitz, May 10, 1899, in Omaha, Nebraska
Martha Graham, born May 11, 1894, in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania
Margot Fonteyn, born Margaret Evelyn Hookham, May 18, 1919, in Surrey, England
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, born Luther Robinson, May 25, 1878, in Richmond, Virginia
Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, born May 25, 1988, in Chicago, Illinois
Robert Louis “Bob” Fosse, born June 23, 1927, in Chicago, Illinois
Isadora Duncan, born May 26 or 27, 1877, in San Francisco, California. Writing for Dance Studio Life (“The Nature of Duncan,” August 2011), Eileen Glynn says, “If modern dance pioneer Duncan were one of your studio’s students, she’d be the tattooed hellion in the back row. Duncan rejected ballet as a stifling routine of mindless repetition. She favored free-form movement inspired by nature, which she performed barefoot in flowing (and sometimes revealing) costumes in an age when women were still corseted. Duncan wasn’t the first to do these things, but she was their most celebrated proponent.”
According to dance historian Nancy Reynolds, Duncan’s technique “consisted of unspectacular runs, skips, leaps, and falls, given impetus by the ‘natural’ rhythm of breathing. Of course, what Isadora did with them was different; her art was not about steps.”
The Isadora Duncan International Institute, based in New York City, offers Duncan classes at various locations around the world. It also maintains an archive of Duncan-related letters, photographs, books, and programs. For details, visit idii.org.
The Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation, also based in New York City, works to perpetuate Duncan’s dance legacy with workshops, classes, and performances by its affiliated Isadora Duncan Dance Company. To learn more, visit isadoraduncan.org.
Quotable: Dancers on Dance
When I was about six years old, my mother came home one day and found that I had collected half a dozen babies of the neighbourhood—all of them too young to walk—and had them sitting before me on the floor while I was teaching them to wave their arms. When she asked the explanation of this, I informed her that it was my school of the dance. She was amused, and, placing herself at the piano, she began to play for me. This school continued and became very popular. . . . This was the beginning of what afterwards proved a very lucrative occupation.
—Isadora Duncan (about her budding career as a dance teacher, from My Life, her 1927 autobiography)