Elizabeth's Reviews > The Real Isadora

The Real Isadora by Victor Seroff
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's review
Apr 30, 12

bookshelves: dance, france, germany, russia, east-coast, california, new-york, biography, greece, nonfiction
Read in January, 2012

I felt morally obligated to read an in-depth biography of the dancer for a variety of reasons. This book took me a good six months of slogging, slowly, painfully, through the incredibly messy life of Duncan. Perhaps I chose the wrong book for my education. Seroff's book is sort of a reaction to other biographies of the dancer, so there was a lot of, "In this biography, they say this, but it's not true because I knew her and she would never do this or that." According to Seroff, her "My Life" was written for cash, and is a huge exaggeration of her exploits.

After finishing the book, Ducan is still very much an enigma. I still can't figure out if I would have liked her in person if I had met her. Her behavior at times seems horrifically self-centered, which can be excusable--after all she is an artist. At other moments though, it verges on really, really weird. She was so careless with her life and with the way she treated others. Sometimes I wonder if she suffered from a lack of self-reflection, instead using the public as a forum to test out her ideas to great aplomb, or astonishing failure. For example, she was banned in Boston for taking of her top off on stage and pointing at her breasts saying, "This. This is art!"

At other moments, I felt very sorry for her, as many of people she surrounded herself were sniveling sycophants, or users and manipulators.

One this is clear though. Although she made a great hash of her life, she possessed an incredible amount of charisma, the power to whip audiences into a fervor that caused them to hate her or worship her. Charisma is a huge part of dance. As is musicality, which I imagine she had in spades. She also seemed to have this supernatural power with men of all types: the sewing machine heir, the non-english speaking Russian poet, the set designer.

Now that I'm done, I think I'm safe to answer any questions about Ducan, if pressed. But I'm certainly not planning on reading another biography of her. I'm exhausted.
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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim Cherry Thank you for the review, I've always been interested in Duncan. I agree with her on what art is!


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