Isadora Duncan: Movement from the Soul

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


This unsentimental portrait of the complex and charismatic “mother of modern dance,” set against a background of the social upheavals of turn-of-the-century America, France, Russia and Germany, traces the life and artistic development of Isadora Duncan. A study of Duncan as revolutionary and iconoclast, a woman who dared to defy Victorian mores both through her art and the way she lived, the film combines a dozen reconstructed Duncan choreographies, archival footage and photographs, and images from nature, Greek art and Rodin’s sculpture to chronicle Duncan’s work, as well as the social, personal and political influences behind it.

The dance revivals are performed by third-and fourth-generation Duncan dancers, Madeleine Lytton and Lori Belilove, along with members of the Oakland Ballet. Julie Harris eloquently gives Isadora a voice in a narration based on Duncan’s writings and speeches.

This film’s ultimate distinction is its refreshingly unsensational approach to Duncan’s legendary life, which allows the primary emphasis to be place where it belongs: on her creative legacy and the important part it played in the evolution of contemporary dance.

— Robert Hawk

Screening Details

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