Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography

By SABRINA JONES

Sensational, glamorous, revolutionary: for nearly a century, the superlatives used to describe Isadora Duncan have wrapped the woman behind the legend in tantalizing mystery, much the way her classically draped dance attire covered (or revealed) her body. Though a plethora of books (including her own audacious autobiography) and photographs documented Duncan’s leap from ballet’s rigid discipline to the development of her own modern style, this slim volume is the first graphic biography whose exuberant pen-and-ink drawings perfectly capture the fervid life of this dance icon. Chapter by chapter (festooned with such descriptive titles as “Snowdrop in the Dunes” and “Revolt of the Isadorables”), Sabrina Jones’s curving lines and graceful letters chronicle a story that feels as fresh and immediate as if it were happening today. Beginning with Isadora’s childhood in California, where she was raised in the chaotic but loving charge of her single mother, the pictures prance across the page and the world, to Paris, Berlin, Budapest, and Vienna. In Greece, Duncan seeks the roots of her expression among the temples of antiquity; in Russia, she embraces Communism and founds a state school. Lovers are seduced. Riches and recognition come and go in waves.Duncan bears two children, Deirdre and Patrick, who are later tragically killed when their car rolls into the Seine. And though we well know that Isadora met her own end in a bizarre car accident, the vitality that delivers this dramatic story to old admirers and “a generation in flip-flops” alike resonates like the hum of an audience, so electrified by the performance that they are still crackling with energy long after the curtain falls.

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