Friday May 17th, 2013 - Lori Belilove and the Isadora Duncan Dance Company presented this evening of dance, honoring the 136th birthday of the legendary Isadora Duncan, the courageous mother of modern dance. Isadora, a woman after my own heart in so many way, continues to fascinate and I try to take advantage of any opportunity to see her work performed.
Lori Belilove (above, photo by Margaretta Mitchell), the artistic director of The Isadora Duncan Dance Company, is a third-generation Duncan dancer. As a young girl and dance student traveling with her family in Greece, Lori chanced to meet Vassos Kanellos who had studiied with and danced for Isadora as a boy. Lori became obsessed with Isadora Duncan and her work; she was taken on as a private pupil by Kanellos for two years. Returning to the USA, Lori met and worked with Mignon Garland who paved the way for her to meet Irma and Anna Duncan, two of Isadora's apostles. From there the preservation and performance of the Duncan repertory became Lori's life mission.
Lori constructed the evening's programme to give us a view of the variety of Isadora's work while centering it on the theme of marches. The dances were linked by a spoken narrative, the 'voice of Isadora' remarking on various aspects of her life and philosophy.
Isadora of course scandalized the dance world in her day by dancing barefoot to the classics. Music of the great composers was heard this evening, opening with Hector Berlioz' celebratory Rakoczy March; believed to have been choreographed in 1902, it was the oldest Duncan work that was shown. A sexette of girls in deep blue tunics danced the piece with triumphant vitality.
For me, it was the second work of the evening, the large-scale and gorgeous Homage to Apollo, that was most thrilling to watch. Created by Duncan c. 1913, this is set to the Andante from Schubert's 9th symphony; the choreographer was inspired to construct a supremely handsome ritualistic piece. The dancers in virginal white - some accented by daffodil-hued gossmer capes - move in stately patterns with entrancing port de bras and the light of eternal beauty in their eyes. Their dignity and feminine pride was really moving to behold, especially in a marvelous double-diagonal of slow pacing which is the apex of this splendid dancework. It's a piece every lover of dance should see.
This was followed by the briefer and lighter Homage to Dionysus, also to Schubert's 9th, and the first half of the evening concluded with Bacchanal, a Spring-awakening dance dating from c. 1908 and set to music from Gluck's Don Juan. Here as all evening, the Duncan dancers showed a sincere dedication to the style and music.
The second half of the evening opened on a more personal note as Lori Belilove performed the poignant solo Mother, which Duncan created in 1924: a simple and expressive work reflecting on the tragic loss of her young children. The rites of mourning continued with a setting of a Schubert march which the Company's music director John Link had arranged for piano and two voices. The singers were Bridget Ori and Kristin Dausch, and the pianist Matthew Martin Ward. In this work, Ms. Belilove portrayed the bereaved mother being consoled by a sextette of angels in long robes with trains; young children appear to the despairing woman as visions.
Two dances from Gluck's ORFEO ED EURIDICE created a natural progression as Ms. Belilove danced in the first - the familiar Dance of the Blessed Spirit - with a sad yet uplifting ensemble; then we had the lively and agitated Dance of the Furies.
In Revolutionary from 1928, Ms. Belilove is red danced with feminine power and a sense of defiance to a Scriabin etude; she was then joined by the ensemble for Marche Heroique (1926) in which Tchaikovsky's allegro molto vivace from the 6th Symphony propelled the red-clad dancers to a victorious finish.
In an age when so many dancemakers seem to lack a sense of structure or musicality, Isadora's works shine like beacons in their clarity and humanity. Lori Belilove had this to say about dancing in and presenting Isadora's work today: "When we are at war and are mourning, when we triumph and celebrate, when we yearn for private intimacy or want to embrace the world, her voice finds ways to reach us."
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)