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My Life

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  754 ratings  ·  79 reviews
My Life, the classic autobiography first published just after Duncan's death, is a frank and engrossing life account of this remarkable visionary and feminist who took on the world, reinvented dance, and led the way for future great American modernists Ruth St. Denis, Agnes de Mille, and Martha Graham.Documenting Duncan's own life as a dancer and as a woman—from her enchan ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 17th 1996 by Liveright (first published 1927)
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3.99  · 
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 ·  754 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This autobiography by Isadora Duncan reads like a work of fiction. What a remarkable woman she was and what a remarkable life she lived. She was born in California in 1877, but she spent most of her life and career in Europe and Russia. By 1910 she was world famous with several dance schools across Europe. She was the mother of modern dance and she was a shooting star that streaked across the sky of the world she lived in. She died tragically in Paris at age 50 in a car accident, when the long s ...more
I’m trying to figure out what to make of this book. More importantly, I’m trying to figure out if I would have liked this person if I met her in real life. She’s complex. Sometimes she talks out of both sides of her mouth, declaring one thing at one moment in the book and the opposite idea later. But then again, I value the ability to change your mind and evolve.

She’s certainly a product of her time, but ignoring that fact, I have feeling I would have loved her but also found her annoying if I
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
I knew nothing about Isadora Duncan, the highly creative dancer, before I picked up a copy of her charming autobiography. It is only because I had recently discovered that she had spent some time in Albania, a country that fascinates me and about which I have written, that I decided to read this book.

The book was highly enjoyable. She writes well and makes frequent allusions to, and uses quotes from, the great classical authors and also from Nietzche and other more recent writers. I felt that Is
Apr 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
In cases like these, memoirs of people who exceed life, what can be said about their writing when it's all about their lives? Does Duncan write well? She never claims to, in fact the opposite. Is her narrative well-crafted? Hardly, and she admits as much. So what I'd be rating here is her life rather than how she tells it, and that is really unratable because it exceeds all bounds of norms, bounds, the typical vicissitudes. I couldn't help but read her as a character, a Mme. Bovary meets some Ge ...more
Mar 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Isadora is one of my heroes. She was so far ahead of her time.
Sergiu Pobereznic
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
I know that I am probably going to commit Isadora Duncan sacrilege with this review, so before I begin, and for the record, I would like to state that the world is indebted and grateful for what Isadora Duncan achieved in her lifetime and what she stands for as an artist in the dance world.

However, my critique is directed towards her writing (and perhaps her eccentric career claims) not her dance and career achievements.

Although her fame is undoubtedly recogni
Bo Olsen
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a remarkable book that held my interest from the beginning. She had an idea of what dance should be and how it should be performed. She left her home in San Francisco with her entire family and no money, hoping she could find someone in show business to understand what she wanted to bring to the stage. It wasn't to be in America, so they set sail to Europe where she found people willing to listen and let her express herself, her free spirit. People liked her style and she foun ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Truly fantastic work! Duncan was so much more than a dancer. She was a dedicated scholar, one of the most free-thinking feminists I’ve encountered (some of her ideas would still be considered radical to some degree today), and a great writer. I was really surprised by the depth of her thinking and her understanding and passion for art in its many manifestations. She understood that one of the highest callings one can have in this life is art and that it is a spiritual pursuit—and she created som ...more
Fiona Goodman
I thought it was interesting coming from her point of view, however it was extremely self-aggrandizing and showed that she had little insight into her own psyche. I would like to read other books about her to get a fuller picture of both the good and bad aspects of her character. The funny thing is, she does present her self as someone so flighty that she would get her scarf caught under the wheel of a car and die.
Sue Iri
Feb 05, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

The life of Isadora Duncan was undoubtedly worth writing about, but she was not the one to do it. Her turgid writing style and overblown dramatics make the autobiography almost unreadable. She had a great deal of sadness end reason for heartbreak but suffered excruciating highs and lows that may well have been part of her nature, and are exhausting to follow.
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My first edition 1928 copy of this book sprouted post-its in every direction as I researched my graphic biography of Isadora. Isadora's version of events is perhaps a little puffed up, perhaps not all written by her own hand, but it's still the closest you can get to this daredevil of a woman. When I found this memoir on my grandmother's shelf, Isadora became my first feminist heroine.
Indy Fernandez
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
I am ashamed to admit that I had not heard of Isadora Duncan till I read this autobiography of hers. By all accounts, her name should go down in the annals of history as she was a visionary of the Arts who broken the shackles of tradition with her expressive dance form. What an amazing individual and what an amazing life she lived. When Duncan discourses on dance, her words come to life and you can almost picture her fluid, easy, sensuous and lithe body expressing all that is beauty and light. H ...more
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book because it told Her-Story!!!

She takes us on a ride into her world of being free. Ms Duncan died tragically but lived vicariously thrilling !!!
She has been called the 'Mother of Modern Dance'. She was inflenced by the classics, especially Greek Myth, where she danced in grecian tunics. She had sexual escapades in the early 1900's that people shunned but today is the norm. She refused to be involved in anything that constricted her individuality!!!

I totally felt her character and
Jan 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
I wanted to re-read this after visiting Greece and remembering that Isadora danced at the Theatre of Dionysus. While I appreciate her bravado on a certain level (mostly because few female artists dare to hold themselves in such arrogant high-regard as the many male artists who are simply capitulated to for it) she was truly an insufferable blowhard. I wish I could have seen her perform, but equally wish I had never read this nonsense.
Jun 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Not a modest bone in the body of the mother of modern dance. Interesting life--if half of it is true--but so mellow-dramatic and self indulgent it was hard to actually want to keep reading. But, when all is said and done she is definitely a rock star, and I am glad I finished it.
May 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
How good? So good. A completely inspiring woman who led a completely inspiring life.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wow, what a fascinating woman and she writes beautifully. I am not really even a fan of her dancing but her story is fantastic. I recommend it as an interesting biography.
Nov 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
Title edited to "My Life: Shallow, Selfish, and Destructive."
May 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
I laughed a couple of times and could relate to some of her thoughts, but overall for some reason I found it a little self-absorbed.
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Duncan wasn't a writer, but her autobiography nonetheless contains many beautiful thoughts, and fleshes out the thinking and experiences of a very inspirational trailblazer.
Sandra Ferreira
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For Isadora, and for each one of us, if we embrace her message, searching the primordial movement is finding the essence of the human being. Nothing is more important than dancing.
Isadora lived a fully, yet tormented life, but never gave up her dream of building a school that would also be a home for children to dance and to be raised in freedom and peace. The same freedom and peace she wanted for humanity. The ancient Greece, the spirit of America, and the XXth century intelectuals are the mai
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read so I can lead RAD (Read and Discuss) Texas book group. But as she states several times, she it not a writer. Lots of repetition about her theories about dance, lots of French and German quotations but with no translations or footnotes to explain them, and meandering dialogue and a scarcity of details. Interesting if you want to learn more about dance and dance theory or about European culture in the early 1900's.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While there are definitely a few interesting sections, I found this a fairly boring read overall. Duncan's voice is narcissistic and draining, and while I appreciate the role she played in history both as a successful outspoken, unmarried woman and as an artist, her sense of entitlement and lack of self-awareness were offputting.
D Herceg-Lockhart
What a life story!!!

Some people cram twenty lives into one, and Isadora Duncan was certainly one of them. What an extraordinary soul she was, what a journey she had. Thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring!
Minka Marikki
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
I've been working on this one for months and I guess it's time to admit that I just can't get through it. Isadora Duncan was clearly not a writer.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An epic though sad story of a brilliant woman who was ahead of her time. It sparkles with wisdom, classical music, romance, and culture.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a long time, her (and her family's) naivety and recklessness bothered me, but somewhere around the deaths of her children, I started to "get" her. While her narrative became repetitive (she was not a great writer), and many things seemed frivolous, in the end, there's no doubt that Isadora Duncan lived a charmed and cultured life and was self-aware of her seemingly less desirable traits. But who's to say what is ultimately desirable here, really? Many of her adventures were fueled by these s ...more
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I must admit: I have already been a big fan of Isadora Duncan before and I am even more now.
In spite of the fact that I truly see a lot of critical points in this book and flaws in her personality.

She was visionary, way ahead of her time, a feminist, confident, went against all conventions.
Her life was tragic through and through and ended in a way, even the best writers could not have imagined (Adieu, mes amis. Je vais à la gloire!)

As a dancer, I have heard long ago of Isadora Duncan as the
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Isadora Duncan, founder of modern dance, wrote her autobiography a few months before she tragically died in a freak, only-in-the-1920s car accident. But, after reading My Life, one could say she really died after she lost three children within a few years of each other. Heartbreaking yet frank, My Life is an enthralling read that shines a light on a desolate star, who could not achieve happiness but has a lasting vestige of a time when creative powers were bursting from a chaste Victorian societ ...more
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Isadora Duncan was an American dancer. She was born Angela Isadora Duncan in San Francisco, California and is considered by many to be the mother of Modern Dance. Although never very popular in the United States, she entertained throughout Europe.
“For I was never able to understand, then or later on, why, if one wanted to do a thing, one should not do it. For I have never waited to do as I wished. This has frequently brought me to disaster and calamity, but at least I have the satisfaction of getting my own way.” 33 likes
“Any woman or man who would write the truth of their lives would write a great work. But no one has dared to write the truth of their lives.” 31 likes
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