You know when you are watching Isadora Duncan’s work. Her technique, created over a century ago, is easily recognizable. With parading skips, subtle gestures and a wide emotional vocabulary, her works were revolutionary at the turn of the 20th Century when the traditional ballet hierarchy ruled the dance world.
Nevertheless, Duncan’s once radical ideas emphasizing natural forms can fall flat for the audiences of today. We are used to seeing a great range of dance styles: from modern to hip-hop, contemporary to ballroom, and this normalization of diversity in dance while beautiful, can take away some appreciation for modern’s classics.
In “Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul,” Word Dance Theater endeavors to provide a contemporary context for today’s viewers to enter Frédéric Chopin’s “24 Preludes.” Duncan choreographed dances to Chopin’s Preludes throughout her life, eventually covering all twenty-four of them. As a result, Duncan’s dances to the preludes as a whole cannot be dated, and instead, present a diverse anthology of the movement discoveries she made throughout her career.
Considered the “Mother of Modern Dance,” Duncan’s style focuses heavily on natural postures and the usage of breath in order to direct and define the dance. Her choreography is passed down from one generation to the next. Cynthia Word and her dancers were taught the Preludes by Jeanne Bresciani, Artistic Director of the Isadora Duncan International Institute, who was taught them by Maria Theresa Duncan, the adopted daughter of Isadora Duncan.
Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul
closes July 26, 2018
Details and tickets
For “Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul,” Cynthia Word, Founder and Artistic Director of Word Dance Theater, was joined by dancers Jordan Gehley and Jenifer Golden, performing Preludes 1 through 24. In addition to Duncan’s choreography, the dancers introduced text into the work, telling snippets of stories inspired from the newspaper. While at first, the text seemed a bit forced into the dance, as the performance continued on the dancers found a more natural rhythm that complimented Duncan’s dances and produced added meaning behind the emotional dimension of the Preludes.
The stories, inspired by articles in the Washington Post and Oprah Winfrey’s book, The Wisdom of Sundays, embraced a variety of current issues including immigration, gun violence, abandonment, illness and personal identity. Their usage within the work contributed a new relevance to the century-old dance.
For this Capital Fringe performance, the preludes were played by Pianist Carlos Rodrigues, whose interpretation of Chopin’s score complemented the dancer’s pace throughout their movement and storytelling.
Duncan’s technique requires a physical awareness and emotional maturity from the dancers who practice it. Since many of the moves are the same throughout the “24 Preludes,” tone and attitude must be dictated by the musical accompaniment and the dancers themselves. Word’s dancers certainly understand this, for their performance displayed a vast emotional range despite the choreography’s repetition.
If you are interested at all in modern dance or would like to see an intimate, freeing dance performance, “Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul” is a great show for you. Duncan’s human yet regal quality is expertly performed by Word’s cast and the live music by Carlos Rodrigues is a joy to experience.
Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul . Choreographer: Isadora Duncan . Composer: Frederick Chopin . Featuring: Jordan Gehley, Jenifer Golden, Hannah Goldberg, Rebecca Lallande, Cynthia Word, Ingrid Zimmer, Carlos Rodriquez . Produced by Word Dance Theater for Capital Fringe . Reviewed by Arielle Ostrey.