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Texts / Curt Sachs

 

Curt Sachs

Europe since Antiquity. Isadora Duncan

 

    The twentieth century has rediscovered the body; not since antiquity has it been so loved, felt, and honored. Nobody really aware of what is taking place today needs to be told this. After a sleep of two thousand years the expressive imitative dance is awakening. Our generation does not find what it seeks in the ballet, in the world of dancing slippers, gossamer skirts, and artificial steps. It cries out, as No- verre once did, for nature and passion; again it desires, as he did, though perhaps too strongly, to exchange stereotyped movement for something genuinely of the soul.

    As always, the new style begins not with the great performers, but with the people with ideas; as always, it turns back to the past to find not only form but courage to carry on. Isadora Duncan - and this shall be the only name we mention - breathes life into the statues of the Greeks. She frees the old Hellenic dance from the rigidity of sculpture, from its sleep in the museums. With insight and feeling she thaws out the movement and rhythm which the ancient sculptors had charmed into frozen calm. She is not the first and not the only one in the struggle against the ballet; but among her imitators at the turn of the century there was often too much egotism and too little ability. In the meantime the great and admirable technique of the ballet has come down to a generation of dancers who build freely on the happy consciousness of the body. What they dance is as manifold as their temperaments - serious and gay, stately and playful, earthbound and heaven-storming, simple and grotesque, crude and refined, human and demoniacal. They alternate from the romantic emphasis on feeling to the classic love of form. They have taken lessons from the ancient Greeks and from the nature peoples and have learned from the Oriental high cultures how to express spiritual states, moods, and dispositions with the greatest economy of means. One thing, however, they have not been able to acquire: the strength and stability of custom, the binding and sustaining power of communal tradition, the fusion of the individual in the universal or the typical. And this has been their salvation. In the midst of a period of conflict over new forms, where the other arts have floundered uncertainly, it has been their good fortune to express the joys and sorrows, the fears and hopes of mankind today in rapturous form. And yet not only of mankind today, but of men of all races and in all ages. For that to which they give living expression has been the secret longing of man from the very beginning - the victory over gravity, over all that weighs down and oppresses, the change of body into spirit, the elevation of creature into creator, the merging with the infinite, the divine.

    Whosoever knoweth the power of the dance dwelleth in God.

 

 

 

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