Revolutionary! Isadora Duncan


Editorial Review

Celia Wren reviewed this show during the 2008 Capital Fringe Festival:

A kneeling, russet-draped figure presses her fists to the floor, then raises them high with an air of militant ecstasy. That fervent image opens "Revolutionary: Isadora Duncan's Words, Music, Dance," a lissome, informative Capital Fringe Festival offering about the modern-dance pioneer. Produced by Word Dance Theater and directed by Stephen Jarrett, the show is a splicing of monologue -- by actress Sarah Pleydell, interpreting a script she adapted from Duncan's writings -- and movement, reconstructed from Duncan's choreography.

Light, skipping steps and yearning, beckoning arm gestures dominate the dance numbers, earnestly rendered by Valerie Durham, Ingrid Zimmer and company Artistic Director Cynthia Word, all clad in billowing fabrics. Thus, the relatively fraught, clenched-fist opener, "Revolutionary Etude" (set to music by Scriabin and performed on Sunday by Zimmer), stands out -- seeming to embody Duncan's iconoclasm.

Pleydell's heartfelt first-person narration -- performed mostly while reclining on a chaise longue to the left of the stage -- puts that innovative energy in historical context, chronicling Duncan's birth in San Francisco in the late 1870s, her success in Europe, her artistic theories ("Art is not merchandise!") and her turbulent personal life. The dances have been arranged so as to comment on the tales: For instance, the elegiac "Ave Maria," featuring a white-robed dancer (Word) whose arms move glacially from a cradling to a crucifix position, seems to mirror Duncan's grief at the accidental drowning of her children in 1913.

Designer Rhonda Key's silky, bright-hued costumes (including a red, white and blue outfit for "La Marseillaise," a terpsichorean response to World War I) echo Duncan's own costume choices, while bolstering this production's mood of bohemian ardor.

-- Celia Wren