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Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography by…

Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography

by Sabrina Jones

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Ages 15+

In an era of corsets and rigid ballet, Duncan danced barefoot in a thin tunic, citing nature and Greek gods as her teachers. She toured Europe, loved freely, and established dancing schools to teach children of the poor. Though she saw herself as a liberated woman and a revolutionary, her actions sometimes told a conflicting tale. Jones’ biography is a balanced look at the audacious modern dancer.

As Duncan’s dancing was a visual art, the graphics add a richness that could not be achieved through text alone. Jones found inspiration in photographs and portraits by the Ashcan Painters. Jones’ depictions of Duncan in movement are evocative and elucidate Duncan’s character.

While parents and teachers may have doubts about a graphic novel as a biography, the book is well-researched and informative. Jones quotes Duncan, her contemporaries, and critical reviews. A selected bibliography provides references. Lori Belilove, founder of the Isadora Duncan Foundation and Dance Company, endorses the biography in the forward.

Two panels of Duncan using nudity on stage to express her unity of mind, body, and soul will challenge the maturity of some readers.

Students learning about the bohemian culture of Paris circa 1900, the Ashcan artists, Rodin, the U.S. Progressive movement, or the Russian Revolution will find Isadora’s biography an illuminating account of the era’s zeitgeist. Recommended. ( )
  Rachel.Seltz | Dec 3, 2013 |
4Q, 3P. An enjoyable biography of a fascinating figure with a colorful life. The art isn't the best I've ever seen, but it's lively and spirited; the writing is heavily based on quotes by or about Isadora or narration boxes providing context, so it's hard to rate. It probably won't appeal to all readers, but those with an interest in dance or early 20th-C history will love it; especially good for the way for the way it illustrates the politics, fads and mores of American and European culture at the time.

This biography paints a picture of Isadora Duncan as a woman of powerful convictions, who fought for her beliefs and her right to express herself, and who hated of commercialism was such that she frequently left successful positions in order to bounce around the rim of financial ruin looking for True Art. Comics, a medium which leaps crisply and easily between reality and abstraction as needed, is the ideal format for bringing history to vibrant, memorable life, and this one is a worthy addition to the ranks. ( )
  PlasticAtoms | Apr 16, 2013 |

"Jones’ curvy, flowing ink brush style suits the nature of the story well; her art does a good job of conveying Duncan’s free and loose style of dance. Duncan chafed against the stiffness of “traditional” dancing like ballet, and so this book eschews panel borders for the most part. However, that does not stop the book from being divided into chapters, nor from each page following a rough 2×3 panel configuration.

The dancing and art style might be flowing, but the same cannot be said for the pacing of the book, which jumps from place to place and from event to event in Duncan’s life. The transitions are rough, and not always clear, making it hard to distinguish where Isadora is at a given point in her life, or how much time has passed." ( )
  lampbane | Jan 20, 2011 |

With this book, I'm asking a generation in flip-flops to imagine how traffic stopped when Isadora strolled down 5th Avenue in her homemade sandals.
p. 3

This graphic novel tells the story of Isadora Duncan, the Mother of Modern Dance, from her humble beginnings as the daughter of a piano teacher to her sudden death, due to an overly flow-y accessory and all that came in-between.

I came to this book knowing a few things about Isadora Duncan, namely that she spawned the "Isadorables;" that her style of dance, which was supposed to be free of training and structure, evolved into a new form of dance altogether in which students can now train and learn choreography that is passed down from body to body much in the way that ballet, which she despised for its "rigidness," has been for centuries; and that she was kind of a boozer. Basically, I know the kinds of things they tell you at the beginning of a modern dance class held during a summer workshop for ballet dancers.

All of these things are laid out beautifully in the book. But there is so much more! Isadora traveled the (Western, including Russia) world, to showcase her dancing. She gave political performances, that were not all that well-received, and yet she gave them over and over again because she believed in what she had to say. She was a professional dancer who GOT PREGNANT without ending her career. She started schools for underprivileged girls in Europe where they could learn to dance (be "Isadorables") and eat three square meals a day free of charge.

She also had the first historically recorded wardrobe malfunction and a rather scandalous string of lovers. As Jones says, we all have Isadora to thank for the widespread acceptance of "comfortable dress and serial monogamy" (125).

Throughout this biography, Jones manages to balance Isadora's personal, professional and family personas. Rather than focusing on just the scandal, just the ground-breaking accomplishments, just the prevalent eccentricities, Jones shows how each was affected and usually enhanced by the others. She also manages to convey a lot of movement, which is what modern dance is all about, for a book of black and white illustrations. Almost every spread shows a swaying, jumping, or somehow dancing Isadora. Her innocent little "I'm not up to anything" face peeks out from every page as well.

By drawing from Isadora's own autobiography, as well as her other publications and the work of other biographers, including Isadora's most loyal adopted Isadorable, Irma Duncan, Jones puts forth a wonderful look at all of the facets of Isadora's life. This book expresses the freedom and artistry that Isadora spent her life sharing with others.

Book source: Philly Free Library
  lawral | Feb 26, 2010 |
This is a wonderful biography of an important figure in the world of dance, expression, and feminism. Jones does an excellent job of portraying Duncan's revolutionary and visionary side while never losing sight of her humanity and fallibility. Because this is a graphic novel Duncan's movement suffuses the work, just as it should. This biography makes Duncan's ideas and life accessible to young adult readers without sacrificing the complexity of this this remarkable artist and woman. ( )
  framberg | Oct 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809094975, Hardcover)

Myth and controversy still swirl around the dramatic figure of Isadora Duncan. The pioneering modern dancer emerged from provincial nineteenth-century America to captivate the cultural capitals of Europe, reinvent dance as a fine art, and leave a trail of scandals in her wake. From her unconventional California girlhood to her tragic death on the French Riviera fifty years later, Duncan’s journey was an uncompromising quest for truth, beauty, and freedom.
Here Duncan’s art and ideas come vividly to life. Each page is a unique dance of words and images, reflecting Duncan’s courage, passion, and idealism in a way sure to inspire another generation of admirers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:28 -0400)

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