lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Isadora Duncan part of Hortus Imaginum

Hortus-IsadoraThe audience of Hortus Imaginum walked past images and sound sources including live performers. The most theatrical of these was a speech and dance homage to Isadora Duncan (1877-1927), who revolutionized dance with her ideas about “natural” movement and affected society with her radical ideas about women and sexuality. Her work seemed an obvious choice for Hortus‘ exploration of nature and culture and was an opportunity for the audience to take its conventional role of spectator and sit down on the bleachers of the amphitheatre in the Walker Botanical Garden.

I learned about Isadora in my Dance History studies at York University years before. For Hortus, I did my research at the Metropolitan Toronto Library Theatre Department where I found The Technique of Isadora Duncan as taught by Irma Duncan, Kamin Publishers, 1937 and a book of writings by Isadora which formed the basis of the spoken text, Isadora Speaks, edited and introduced by Franklin Rosemont, City Light Books, San Francisco. (“My will is to free the art of dancing…..And all art must be intimately connected with nature at its roots….If my art is symbolic of any one thing, it is symbolic of the freedom of woman….)

I also did research during June 17-28, 1991 by attending the classes of Annabelle Gamson who with Irene Dowd and Peggy Baker was teaching at The Dance Intensive, The School for the Contemporary Arts, Simon Fraser University. The classes were a stretch for me since I had stopped dancing at the end of 1974 and Grant Strate generously allowed me in. My cardio fitness level had always been poor and I was rarely able to get through a whole class. Anabelle Gamson referred to the raised Duncan arm position as the “singing armpit”, a terrific image that has stayed with me.

I had just completed teaching a short course in Dance Composition for the Professional Training Program graduating class at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre on the invitation of Patricia Beatty (which continued for 16 years as the Creative Process course). That first class included Jessica Runge whom I cast in Hortus Imaginum as the Young Woman and my partner in the Isadora piece. It was performed in the gravel amphitheatre of Walker Botanical Garden and choreographed to Chopin’s Etude #1 in A Flat, Opus 25/1, CT 26, “Aeolian Harp” , played by Beth Bartley on violin. Chopin’s music was an important part of Duncan repertoire. Judith Miller assisted with the staging.

(This Isadora Duncan research also led to the installation, Isadora Speaks.)


Jessica Runge and Elizabeth Chitty rehearsing

Jessica Runge and Elizabeth Chitty rehearsing, Beth Bartley behind on violin


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