Non-review: Isadora Duncan shows us how it’s done

[“Non-review” means a blog post which focuses on a specific dance show or performance but does not offer a review or criticism of the work. Instead a non-review explores issues or ideas within dance that the work brings to light or discusses questions stirred in some way by the performance. My aim is not to rate the work as an individual piece but to frame it in the broader context of dance analysis and history and allow it to spark deeper conversation.]

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of viewing a performance by Word Dance Theater, a DC-based company dedicated to “preserving, illuminating, and building upon the philosophy and choreography of Isadora Duncan” through education and performance. Led by Artistic Director Cynthia Word, the company performed a mixed program of restaged Duncan works as well as original pieces influenced by the spirit and movement style of Duncan’s choreography.

To be completely honest, I did not get a ticket to see Word Dance Theater but to see my friend perform in the other company that shared the evening performance. And in fact, my friend and I were joking before the show about the skipping about in tunics and melodramatic posing I was going to have to endure before seeing her own company perform.

Boy, was I wrong.

Instead of antiquated movements and gestures and repetitious flouncing about (expectations created from pictures and bits of video on Duncan I remembered from undergrad), what I experienced was some of the most clear, unadulterated, powerful dance I have ever seen.

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Modern dance is still so new!

Hitting the year 2010 has made me (along with everyone else) think about the changes that have occurred in the U.S. in the last decade and century as well as what is to come in the future. For some reason I keep thinking how weird it will be in only a couple decades when I’m still enjoying classic movies from the 1920’s & ‘30’s, movies that will be 100 years old. Of course my thoughts turned to modern dance, and it struck me that the whole art form came into being not that long ago. On one hand, “modern dance” as we know it is almost 100 years old; but on the other hand, “modern dance” is not even 100 years old!

 And now, a look back into history:

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