The Root of it All

With editing my photo & art archive, I find myself thinking of the first connection to my art education: My grandmother, Llellwyn Jackson. She was a ballerina and modern dancer during the time of Isadora Duncan and was a very strong willed, adventurous woman. She broke boundaries through dance and was amoung some of the greatest female performance artists and dancers of American history. I found some incredible images of her in the online archives of the Library of Congress, all taken by the great Arnold Genthe, who also was Isadora Duncan's portraitist as well as many other female dancers, writers, and actors in the early 1900's. In these portraits she was only 16 or 17.

"...In the early 1900s two American female dancers, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, as well as one German female dancer, Mary Wigman, started to rebel against the rigid constraints of Classical Ballet. Shedding the authoritarian controls surrounding classical ballet technique, costume, and shoes, these early modern dance pioneers focused on creative self-expression rather than on technical virtuosity. Modern dance is a more relaxed, free style of dance in which choreographers use emotions and moods to design their own steps, in contrast to ballet's structured code of steps. It has a deliberate use of gravity, whereas ballet strives to be light and airy... In 1903 - Isadora Duncan developed a dance technique influenced by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzche and a belief that dance of the ancient Greeks (natural and free) was the dance of the future. Duncan developed a philosophy of dance based on natural and spiritual concepts and advocated for that acceptance of pure dance as a high art."

I was walking around in a parisian snowy daze and came across a poster with an old photo of a dancer on it. It looked just like my Grandmother. It turns out, there is an exhibition of Isadora Duncan in Paris right now, at the Musee Bourdelle, "Isadora Duncan: Une Sculpture Vivante" (A living sculpture). Duncan was a major celebrity in Belle Epoque Paris, and was a friend or acquaintance of most of the Paris-based artists of the day. It features 5 of her dance costumes, many photographs and drawings including sketches by Antoine Bourdelle during one of her performances in Paris, and her personal belongings. Bourdelle was a student of Rodin's, whom the Museum (and street) is named after. I cannot wait to see it. I will bask in the images and stories of my Grandmother's New York milieu. The exhibition is up until March 14, 2010. On one last note, I want to add that I lived in a beautiful apartment building in Oakland once, and I was told that she had lived there and the building was originally built for ballet dancers. So much is small in this world.


Buck + Camp said...

Sweet post. It is a small and beautiful world. So, it's official: you gals come by all this talent honestly. It's in your blood. Thanks for sharing.

nathaniel russell said...

wow, i can see her in you and simone. this may be the first time i've seen a close up? so amazing!