Isadora is an absolute wonder to behold. From the excellent narrator who tells of her captivating spell on the world, to the three nymph-like dancers who exemplify her style of simple naturalism in movement, Isadora is as close to seeing Ms. Dincan on stage as you’re going to get. The program relays the magical wonder of this legend of modern dance who transformed the art of movement through blending together poetry, music and the rhythms of nature.
Perched comfortably on a divan downstage right, writer and narrator Sarah Pleydell shares nuggets about the truth stranger than fictional life of the legendary dancer, who seemed otherworldly even in childhood where she was fascinated with nature, imitating the rustling leaves, floating clouds, even breeze. How can someone imitate currents of air? The concept was totally unthinkable in the 1890’s still corseted in stiff-backed social dances where ballet reigned as the only acceptable professional dance technique . Imagine the gasps of wonder with this new approach to movement where fabric floated around the dancer who moved nymph-like across the stage, arms stretched upward to the heavens with ease.
Each of the dancers in Isadora is accomplished, several tour with the Isadora Duncan international institute, and Valerie Durham is a 4th generation Duncan dancer and the Artistic Director of the Duncan Dancers here in Washington, D.C – they all have mastered the free-moving style so associated with Duncan’s artistry, and the production showcases a range of her different styles, a rarity even in dance circles.
For example, the first number shows the traditional “Duncan style” that most of us have seen, light-footed dancers scantily attired in white wafting material that floats along with their every movement. Like peeking in on playful sprites at the riverside, they are beautifully naturalistic and captivating – the world couldn’t get enough. As Duncan traveled internationally, she was like a sponge soaking up the different cultural approaches to movement which she incorporated into her repertory, adding color and spice from her Turkish and Middle Eastern travels, and energetic marches waving red, white and blue from the French Resistance.
What ratchets up the production to stellar status is Cynthia Word’s rendition of “Ava Maria” that Duncan created in the grief after the tragic loss of her children. The dancer barely moves the entire number, but her positioning like a grieving Madonna, arms outstretched, the exquisite silhouette shadowing of light on her face … it’s absolutely stunning.
Pleydell is excellent in relaying the grace and style of the story through her inflections and heart-felt expressions. Dressed in appropriate silky material, including an assortment of beautiful scarves, (and a legendary blood red one at the end) she, too, relays the ethereal fluttering mood of Isadora Duncan. She describes the undulating lines that captivated Duncan, who wrote that there should be no ending or beginning to a phrase, but all one fluid movement. The text also describes Duncan’s fascination with energy flow, and how she was affected by the magnetic waves and light. She was “New Age” before the term even existed.
Seeing work of this caliber in a church setting with lofty ceilings and stained glass windows, is the ultimate Fringe Experience. Go, dance, fly.