Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born Dora Angela Duncanon in San Francisco, California, she is considered the Mother of Modern Dance. Although never very popular in the United States, she entertained throughout Europe, and moved to Paris, France in 1900. There, she lived at the apartment hotel at no. 9, rue Delambre in Montparnasse in the midst of the growing artistic community gathered there. She told friends that in the summer she used to dance in the nearby Luxembourg Garden, the most popular park in Paris, when it opened at five in the morning.
Both in her professional and her private life, she flouted traditional mores and morality. One of her lovers was the theatre designer, Gordon Craig; another was Paris Singer, one of the many sons of Isaac Singer the sewing machine magnate; she bore a child by each of them. Her private life was subject to considerable scandal, especially following the tragic drowning of her children in an accident on the Seine River in 1913. In her last United States tour in 1922-23, she waved a red scarf and bared her breast on stage in Boston, proclaiming, "This red! So am I!".
Montparnasse's developing Bohemian environment did not suit her, and in 1909, she moved to two large apartments at 5 Rue Danton where she lived on the ground floor and used the first floor for her dance school. She danced ballet and gained a wide following that allowed her to set up a school to teach. She became so famous that she inspired artists and authors to create sculpture, jewelry, poetry, novels,photographs, watercolors, prints and paintings. When the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was built in 1913, her face was carved in the bas-relief by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and painted in the murals by Maurice Denis.
In 1922 she married the Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin who was 17 years her junior. Yesenin accompanied her on a tour of Europe but his frequent drunken rages, that resulted in the repeated destruction of furniture and the smashing of the doors and windows of their hotel rooms, brought a great deal of negative publicity. The following year he left Duncan and returned to Moscow where he soon suffered a mental breakdown and had to be institutionalized. Released from hospital, he immediately committed suicide on December 28, 1925.
Duncan often wore scarves which trailed behind her, and this caused her death in a freak accident in Nice, France. She was killed when her scarf caught in the wheel of her friend Ivan Falchetto's Bugatti automobile, in which she was a passenger. As the driver sped off, the long cloth wrapped around the vehicle's axle. Ms. Duncan was yanked violently from the car and dragged for several yards before the driver realized what had happened. She died almost instantly from a broken neck.
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