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The Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble: A Brief History Dale Stine
The genesis of the Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble began in 1990 at a concert at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall. Many of the present members were 13 years old when they premiered Isadora’s “Schubert Waltzes”, alongside solo artist Andrea Mantell-Seidel and guest artist Lori Belilove. The young girls were auspiciously the same age as Isadora’s young company members when they made their debut in these same dances in the early l920’s. The press fondly dubbed Duncan’s young girls, ”the Isadorables.” After seeing the Gusman performance in l990, Laurie Horn, critic for The Miami Herald, thereafter referred to the dancers as “Miami’s Isadorables.”
In l991, during a winter visit to Miami, Julia Levien, a member of the companies of adopted daughters Anna and Irma Duncan of the original Duncan school in the l930’s, saw these young girls perform and pronounced that they had something special. Since then, she devotedly has traveled to Miami during the winter months to work with the company as artistic advisor.
As the girls matured, they took on new, increasingly mature roles each year and new girls joined until eventually the group developed a repertory that could fill an evening. The Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble was born. Unexpected invitations—an international dance festival in Germany, NYC Lincoln’s Center Festival Out-of-Doors, the Kennedy Center and others, propelled the troupe from year to year.
Now in their mid- twenties, these original girls and the others who have joined them later, are no longer young enough to be “adorable,” but rather have grown into mature young artists. In 2003, many of these original ensemble dancers remain passionately committed and devoted to the Duncan work and to the Ensemble. Additionally, they work with the company as rehearsal directors and administrative assistants.
ISADORA DUNCAN: THE LEGACY
Extravagant. Sensual. Courageous. Her great artistry and revolutionary life captured the world’s imagination at the turn of the century. Seeking liberation of the body, mind, and soul through movement, Isadora dared to dance with bare feet, arms, and legs in diaphanous silk tunics modeled after the ancient Greeks. She liberated the body from the unnatural constraints of the corsets, tutu’s, toe shoes, and rigid postures of early 20th century ballet and defied the social and moral conventions of her day. Devoted to awakening the spirits of young children, Isadora established schools first in Germany, then in Paris and Russia, where she could teach her principles of art and life. After her two young children drowned in a tragic car accident, she gave the Duncan name to six of her most devoted pupils. The press fondly named these young pubescent dancers, the “Isadorables.”
In 1927, Julia Levien, then a young teenager, made her debut with adopted daughter, Anna Duncan. In l989, Andrea Mantell-Seidel, one of Levien’s fourth generation protegees, began training a group of 13 and 14 year-old dancers in Miami, Florida. The Company has worked diligently at training young dancers in the Duncan technique who have since developed into an internationally recognized professional company.
THE ISADORA DUNCAN DANCE ENSEMBLE is the fifth generation to perpetuate Isadora’s legacy of solo and group dances. The Ensemble, a ten-member company based in Miami, performs and tours Isadora’s original repertory from the early lyrical works to the later tragic and heroic dances (circa 1905-1925). The Ensemble is comprised of exquisitely trained dancers who reflect the cultural diversity of South Florida and mirror Isadora’s ideals for humanity. Bambi Anderson, former soloist with Annabelle Gamson and the Jose Limon Company performs regularly with the company in leading solo roles. The company is directed by Andrea Mantell-Seidel and coached by artistic advisor, Julia Levien. Since its’ l989 inception, the Ensemble has performed to critical acclaim at the Internationales Tanzfestival Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany; the New York Lincoln Center Festival Out-of-Doors; the Kennedy Center’s 25th Anniversary Season, “Celebrating American Dancing: The Revolution,” in Washington, DC; the Florida Dance Festival; Guatemala; Canada; and throughout Florida.
Ms. Levien was founder and artistic director of The Isadora Duncan Commemorative Dance Company and teaches in New York City. She has given workshops and lectures at many educational institutions in the U.S. and abroad, including California Institute of the Arts and Ohio State University, as well as the American Cultural Center in Paris and The Place in London. She is the author of the book, Duncan Dance: A Guide for Young People published by Princeton Book Company.
The integrity and depth of the work that survives today is a tribute to Ms. Levien’s devotion and commitment to maintaining this legacy over a 75 yr. career. In her restaging and through the subsequent transmission to a fourth, fifth, and sixth generation of creative dancers, every effort is made to be as true as possible to the original in both spirit and form, so that the dances remain always relevant to each succeeding generation. The dancers perform these works through their own individual artistic awareness and Ms. Levien's artistic guidance.
The Isadora Duncan Children’s Troupe
In the place of the original Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble’s once pubescent girls is now a new generation of young “Isadorables,” ages 7-12 years. This sixth generation of young Duncan dancers made their debut at the Colony Theater, Miami Beach, Florida in May of 2002. These children are part of a unique historic legacy, following the lineage from Duncan to her adopted daughters, to third generation dancer Ms. Levien, Mantell-Seidel, a fourth generation dancer, and the fifth generation of Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble dancers. The children participate in outreach activities to special populations including the elderly and handicapped, as well as perform in informal concert venues. The children’s troupe serves as a training vehicle and repository for Duncan’s movement studies for very young dancers. Company members have the opportunity to develop teaching and directing skills through their work with the young children, thereby helping to ensure the continuity of this unique historic legacy.
Special Workshops: Dancing with Disabilities and the Elderly
Artistic Advisor Julia Levien conducts special workshops and educational lectures in the Duncan technique at senior centers, museums, schools, and other venues during her winter residency in Miami. As a 91-year old senior, she inspires the elderly with her vitality and enthusiasm for the dance. The Duncan repertory, dating between 1905-1927, has great appeal to seniors who identify with this era of their youth. Artistic director Mantell-Seidel also is available to present educational lectures and demonstrations locally, nationally, and abroad. In addition, the disabled community is served through the participation of company member Stephanie Bastos who dances with a state-of-the-art prosthesis after losing her leg in an automobile accident. Ms. Bastos also leads special dance workshops and assists in reconstruction. Her triumph over her disability is an inspiration to all who see her luminous dancing.
* The Ensemble has produced a videotape, "ISADORA DUNCAN: TECHNIQUE AND REPERTORY," directed by Mantell-Seidel and Levien. The video is sold as a companion tape to the book, Duncan Dance: A Guide for Young People, by Levien. Both are available through Princeton Book Company Publishers, 1-800-220-7149
The following is a partial listing of the original
repertoire of the Isadora Duncan Dance Ensemble, 1904-1923:
DanceArts Foundation, Inc. Is a nonprofit, tax-exempt
organization formed on August 7, 1989 to support, produce, and promote dance and artistic
events related to the historic preservation and presentation of modern dance classics;
cross-cultural dance events; contemporary; interdisciplinary dance and arts events; and
scholarly and educational programs. DanceArts also serves as the non-profit umbrella for
the Eleanor King Trust, formed to preserve and promote the work of pioneer modern dance
choreographer Eleanor King. Originally founded in response to the highly successful
Eleanor King Retrospective Project directed by Dr. Seidel. This undertaking consisted of a
New York concert produced by Annabelle Gamson/Dance solos and the publication of a book
edited by Nicole Plett. "Eleanor King: Sixty Years in American Dance." The King
Trust's future plans include the production of a documentary on King's life and work.
DanceArts Foundation, Inc. Is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization formed on August 7, 1989 to support, produce, and promote dance and artistic events related to the historic preservation and presentation of modern dance classics; cross-cultural dance events; contemporary; interdisciplinary dance and arts events; and scholarly and educational programs. DanceArts also serves as the non-profit umbrella for the Eleanor King Trust, formed to preserve and promote the work of pioneer modern dance choreographer Eleanor King. Originally founded in response to the highly successful Eleanor King Retrospective Project directed by Dr. Seidel. This undertaking consisted of a New York concert produced by Annabelle Gamson/Dance solos and the publication of a book edited by Nicole Plett. "Eleanor King: Sixty Years in American Dance." The King Trust's future plans include the production of a documentary on King's life and work.
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