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Gerasimos Vokos

Miss Isadora Duncan dances…

I remember that it was seven years ago when I first saw Miss Duncan in Athens. Wearing long dark-red robes in the ancient style, bare-headed, her hair tied with a blue ribbon, her bare feet in light sandals, she entered the Eleftheroudakis bookshop and asked for books on archaeology. It was the first time she had been in Athens. Her enthusiasm on seeing the place where her art - or rather her life's ideals, since I believe Miss Duncan wants her art to be a life in tune with nature, not just art - had reached its greatest possible expression - the enthusiasm of this lovely woman with the cool pink flesh and the liquid eyes had warmed and further embellished her outward appearance. She was accompanied by a stout lady, her mother, a picture of mortality, symbolic of this world, in contrast to her unexpected creation of the creature who seemed a vision of the ancient times and hope for a better life in the future, and her brother, the well-known to us Mr Duncan, dressed like a goatherd in one of Theocritus' idylls.

After so many years without having seen any of the performances that she had given here in Athens, following her triumphs abroad, in Europe and America, but also the contradictions that her art provoked, I had the good fortune to meet her in Kifissia at the meal which the Greek Dramatic Writers' Guild gave in honour of Mr Richepin, the French academician. At this meal Miss Duncan attended wearing a long dress of lightest Indian silk, which fell towards her feet in many little folds. She was slimmer now than when I first met her, and although the many years and the hard work and emotions might have much changed this cool face, they did not seem to have done so. The dancer was cheerful, smiling, full of joy, a vision of beauty in the assembly of her table companions. In generous return for the simple compliment of her invitation, she gave a tinge of antique grandeur to the symposium, by being eager to grace it with her dancing. For a moment we lost her, but when we came out into the garden, she appeared under the trees towards the back, like an Amadryad starting to be intoxicated by Pan, or brought to ecstasy by Apollo.

They had spread a green carpet there, and to one side a piano had appeared. A tall handsome young man, the Scottish musician Mr Skene, was already sitting at the piano. One might perhaps have wished to imagine things a little differently, with an appropriate orchestra of ancient pipes and harps. But there was already a contrast in everything there, in our gathering and the setting, so it could hardly be different for the musical accompaniment. The space beyond, where that beautiful body was already lightly moving, ready to break out into the joy, the intoxication and the passion of dance, within the little grove, with Mount Penteli in the background, under the deep blue sky - all this scenery made us forget, and to see nothing else but the vision of a picture of ancient Greek life.

Mr Skene started to play Schubert's waltzes, full of passion, and Miss Duncan gave her interpretation of the music, obviously trying to bring out its innermost essence. I do not know what we should have expected with regard to the particular dance, which Miss Duncan transformed in her own dancing, nor yet if the personal interpretation of classical music by means of dance movements is possible - of course, the music should have been written for such dancing - but Miss Duncan's dance as such is in every respect something new and beautiful. Postures, movements, facial expressions portray all the human emotions, which dance arouses. The beauty of the dancer, the individual expression of her soul in a harmony of repeated movements pulsating with the joy of life, integrating with nature, the light liftings of her body, trying to escape, to evaporate, to skip away, a sweet breath of delight, the liquid look towards the sky, as if searching for absolute beauty, something again that has been left to wander carefree above the meadow, like a butterfly, and then the power, the impetus, the anguish to achieve a dream - mime here supplements the graphic turns of the dancing - all these things attract the unflagging interest of the spectator, his enthusiasm too, transporting him to other times, bringing to life in him visions of this divine art.

Miss Duncan danced before us for one hour, to the accompaniment of Brahms and Gluck, rendered with much spirit by Mr Skene. One hour, and she could perhaps have danced for another, had there been time.

There was no sign of fatigue on this delicate body, bathed in rosy colours. Her last dance was a French pantomime, which evidently meant to show the attracting of the male to the female for love. She set as her hero Mr Richepin opposite her, making sinuous movements with an erotic intoxication that perhaps only she could express. She advanced seductively on small steps, swayed her body forwards, backwards, sideways, then arrived forcefully and again she broke away retreating, only to return after a while, until she found it was the highest moment, and then she fell on her knees, holding her beautiful hands out towards the poet, who rewarded her art with a kiss on them.

The final impression from the dream was even more impressive. With an endurance that recognised no fatigue, she invited Mr and Mrs Richepin to accompany her to the Acropolis. The priestess wanted to return to the place of her greatest inspirations…




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