Isadora Duncan enchanted audiences in the early 20th century. And thanks to artists like Jeanne Bresciani and her disciple Mary DiSanto-Rose, Duncan still enchants today.
These two spirits are imbued with Duncan’s life-affirming, nature-inspired diversions of delight. As seen this past weekend at the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in “Isadora in the Time of Spring,” these dancers along with a cadre of young, capable adherents, transfixed. Not only did they carry off Duncan’s original works with purity, they were transformed. So too was the audience — astonished by Bresciani, in particular, who once again appeared as Duncan’s reincarnate.
Both of these women are beyond the years that most dancers perform. But when they tip-toe onstage in Duncan’s roles, they shed decades. Part of this is because of Duncan’s ageless works. They celebrate the beauty and power of nature and the joy that all of us, regardless of age and station, take in it. When Bresciani holds up rose petals, admiring their beauty and scent, she goes to a place that is beyond our human understand. With her long dark hair swirling about her face and her hands, as delicate as butterfly wings, rising over her head, she becomes a force that is both earthly and heavenly.
In this program, the dancers were joined by actor/narrator Arlene Sterne. As the Voice of Eternal Spring, she lent her regal speech and bearing to Duncan’s own writings about clouds, the moon, the wind and all things that capture her colorful imagination. Duncan’s eloquent and poetic writing heralded the romps featuring a bevy of nymph-like creatures. Dressed in flowing silk tunics, dancers skipped and raced about the intimate Kaatsbaan stage. While they burst with an infectious energy, they maintained a softness and roundness that was gentle and luminous.
Aside from the final work, “Ode to Artemis” in which they appeared to shoot an arrow, their dancing was sweet and approachable. Often, their arms gather and release an unseen energy. They tossed their heads back, arching their backs, and then bent forward, charging into the world. Throughout, it felt as if the audience was peeking in on the mythological world of the forest.
These energetic dancers (many from Skidmore College), including a wonderful young man who absorbed the Duncan artistry with verve, made up the bulk of this program. That was fine as they were fantastic. But every Duncan enthusiast longs to admire Bresciani who showed her spunk as the chief archer in “Ode to Artemis.”
Equally marvelous was DiSanto-Rose in “Ave Maria.” Standing over a bouquet of white lilies, DiSanto-Rose appeared angelic and maternal. Without moving much more than her arms that rose above her head, she mesmerized. Though six of her attendants swayed by her side, all eyes were on DiSanto-Rose as a celestial being.
No matter who appeared on stage, however, each of the dancers was a beautiful, lyrical ballad to the graciousness of our natural world. It was a reminder to savor our spring.