Isadora Duncan was born in 1877 and died on this day in 1927. She is regarded as a pioneer of modern dance who achieved fame first in Europe with her dances based on Greek classical art. Duncan was a free spirit who led a rich and adventurous life. In her book Something in the Way She Moves, Wendy Buonaventura covers dancing women from Salome to Madonna. She says of Isadora Duncan:

"She was a revolutionary who offered up sensual expression of the body as a cultural endeavor" and "forced open the prison door of Puritanism, letting in light and liberation and a new way of thinking about women's experience and their lives as artists." Not a bad legacy for a dancer trying to change rigid ideas about dancing, the creative spirit, and women.

To Name This Day:


To celebrate Isadora Duncan's Birthday watch the movie Isadora and then think about her spiritual appreciation and understanding of dance.


Which of the following quotations by Isadora Duncan speaks most to you? Why? What role has dance played in your life and on your spiritual journey?

  • "To dance is to live. What I want is a school of life."
  • "To express what is the most moral, healthful and beautiful in art this is the mission of the dancer, and to this I dedicate my life."
  • "No, I can't explain the dance to you; if I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it."
  • "Dancing: the highest intelligence in the freest body."
  • "There are likewise three kinds of dancers: first, those who consider dancing as a sort of gymnastic drill, made up of impersonal and graceful arabesques; second, those who, by concentrating their minds, lead the body into the rhythm of a desired emotion, expressing a remembered feeling or experience. And finally, there are those who convert the body into a luminous fluidity, surrendering it to the inspiration of the soul."
  • "A dancer, if she is great, can give to the people something that they can carry with them forever. They can never forget it, and it has changed them, though they may never know it."
  • "I am seeking that dance which might be the divine expression of the human spirit through the medium of the body's movement."

Personal Explorations

In an essay, Joseph Epstein said of a friend of his: "To be with him was almost always to be reminded of life's larger possibilities, which is a service provided by people who are original for the rest of us." Isadora was in her time — and on the screen as well — an original for all of us. In the movie of your life, who has played this part?