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Constantin Stanislavski

 

Constantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), Russian director and theorist of the theater.

 

Stanislavski, Constantin: My life in art. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1962 (1924).

 

 

Isadora Duncan and Gordon Craig

 

  At about this period, 1908 or 1909, I do not remember the date exactly, I came to know two great geniuses of the time who made a very strong impression on me, - Isadora Duncan and Gordon Craig. I appeared at Isadora Duncan’s concert by accident, having heard nothing about her until that time, and having read none of the advertisements that heralded her coming to Moscow.

  Therefore I was very much surprised that in the rather small audience that came to see her there was a tremendous percentage of artists and sculptors with Mamontov at their head, many artists of the ballet, and many first-nighters and lovers of the unusual in the theatre. The first appearance of Duncan on the stage did not make a very big impression. Unaccustomed to see an almost naked body on the stage, I could hardly notice and understand the art of the dancer. The first number on the program was met with tepid applause and timid attempts at whistling.

  But after a few of the succeeding numbers, one of which was especially persuasive, I could no longer remain indifferent to the protests of the general public and began to applaud demonstratively.

 

  When the intermission came, I, a newly baptized disciple of the great artist, ran to the footlights to applaud. To my joy I found myself side by side with Mamontov, who was doing exactly what I was doing, and near Mamontov was a famous artist, a sculptor, and a writer. When the general run of the audience saw that among those who applauded were well-known Moscow artists and actors, there was a great deal of confusion. The hissing stopped, and when the public saw that it could applaud, the applause became general, and was followed by curtain calls, and at the end of the performance by an ovation.

 

  From that time on I never missed a single one of the Duncan concerts. The necessity to see her often was dictated from within me by an artistic feeling that was closely related to her art. Later, when I became acquainted with her methods as well as with the ideas of her great friend Craig, I came to know that in different corners of the world, due to conditions unknown to us, various people in various spheres sought in art for the same naturally born creative principles. Upon meeting they were amazed at the common character of their ideas. This is exactly what happened at the meeting I am describing. We understood each other almost before we had said a single word.

  I did not have the chance to become acquainted with Duncan on her first visit to Moscow. But during her second visit she came to our Theatre and I received her as a guest of honor. This reception became general, for our entire company joined me, as they had all come to know and love her as an artist.

 

  Duncan does not know how to speak of her art logically and systematically. Her ideas come to her by accident, as the result of the most unexpected everyday facts. For instance, when she was asked who taught her to dance, she answered :

 

  “Terpsichore. I danced from the moment I learned to stand on my feet. I have danced all my life. Man, all humanity, the whole world, must dance. This was, and always will be. It is in vain that people interfere with this and do not want to understand a natural need given us by nature. Et voilà tout,” she finished in her inimitable Franco-American dialect. Another time, speaking of a performance of hers that was just over, during which visitors came to her dressing room and interfered with her preparations, she explained :

 

  “I cannot dance that way. Before I go out on the stage, I must place a motor in my soul. When that begins to work my legs and arms and my whole body will move independently of my will. But if I do not get time to put that motor in my soul, I cannot dance.”

 

  At that time I was in search of that very creative motor, which the actor must learn to put in his soul before he comes out on the stage. Evidently I must have bored Duncan with my questions. I watched her during her performances and her rehearsals, when her developing emotion would first change the expression of her face, and with shining eyes she would pass to the display of what was born in her soul.

  In remembering all our accidental discussion of art, and comparing what she did to what I was doing, it became clear to me that we were looking for one and the same thing in different branches of art. During our talks about art, Duncan continually mentioned the name of Gordon Craig, whom she considered a genius and one of the greatest men in the contemporary theatre.

 

 

 

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Monday the 25th. . Isadora Duncan Pundect
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