'Dance steps. Isadora Duncan and the figurative arts in Italy between the nineteenth century and the avant-garde'

The revolutionary dancer who transformed the world of dance in the 20th century at Villa Bardini

From 13 April 2019 to 22 September 2019

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From April 13th to September 22nd, the Bardini Museum and Villa Bardini in Florence will host the exhibition ‘Dancing footsteps. Isadora Duncan and the figurative arts in Italy between the nineteenth century and the avant-garde': an event dedicated to the ‘pioneer of dance’, to the woman who broke the patterns of classical academic ballet, paving the way for the birth of modern dance. A fascinating character whose ideas on art and performances influenced the cultural and artistic scene of her time. This theme is at the core of the exhibition at Villa Bardini: 175 pieces, including paintings and oil canvases by Romano Romanelli and Libero Andreotti as well as statues housed in the Stefano Bardini Museum, photographs and documents that retrace Isadora Duncan's bond with Italy and the incredible influence she had on the international culture scene of the early 20th century. The exhibition will focus particularly on a theme that is still very modern: the liberation of the female body, back then forced into corsets and other ridiculous outfits. The event was curated by Maria Flora Giubilei and Carlo Sisi and made possible thanks to a collaboration with Fondazione CR Firenze, Fondazioni Parchi Monumentali Bardini and Peyron. The exhibition will unfold in the splendid setting of Villa Bardini in Florence: a wonderful ancient residence located in a position that boasts one the most beautiful views of Florence. So the ingredients are all there: the revolutionary and fascinating character of Isadora Duncan and a splendid exhibition in a location all to explore!

 

ISADORA DUNCAN ITALY: THE BARE-FOOTED DANCER

Who was Isadora Duncan and why did she become an icon of her time? She was born in San Francisco in 1877 to a Scottish father and an Irish mother. Her mother was a piano teacher, so her childhood unfolded to the soundtrack of the songs her mother played. Pillars of her education were freedom and independence, and it was probably her unconventional upbringing that later led her to revolutionize the world of dance. She managed to make a drastic break with the academic world of dance: Isadora Duncan got rid of her chalk shoes, rigid corsets and tutus. She considered these elements to be artificial. Inspired by Greek art, she preferred to wear floating tunics and dance barefooted, enabling her movements to be free and expressive. Her ‘free dances’ were inspired by the feelings and the passion she felt from the power of music. You will be able to see exactly how she felt thanks to all the creative installations of the exhibition on Isadora Duncan in Florence.

The dancer had an eventful life punctuated by tragic accidents: a woman of strong passions who married three times, but was indelibly marked by the death of two of her three children, who drowned in the Seine. In the early 1900s she performed across Europe, and there are several testimonies of the presence of Isadora Duncan in Florence: her signature was found among the members of the Viesseux Cabinet in 1902, and in that same year she performed on October 25th, 27th and 28th at the Circolo degli Artisti. We also know that she visited the Uffizi gallery, keen to see 'Botticelli's Spring' that she had a copy of in her bedroom in San Francisco. This painting was one of her sources of artistic inspiration, perhaps the icon of her battle towards the liberation of the female body from artificial constraints. Isadora Duncan returned to Florence again in 1905 with her husband, Edward Gordon Craig, actor and set designer who collaborated with Eleonora Duse, Isadora's great friend and artistic follower. By then, she had already suffered the death of her children, and she died in Nice in 1927 strangled by a scarf that got caught in the wheels of the convertible car she was travelling in.

 

THE EXHIBITION

Now we have had a taster of the fascinating character of this unique and iconic dancer, we can move on to outlining the Isadora Duncan exhibition at Villa Bardini. So here we are, ready to show you some gems that you can admire during this truly unmissable event. The Villa Bardini exhibition is a must for dance enthusiasts, who can see how much Mrs Duncan gave to their art. But this exhibition is really suitable for everyone, a true cross-section of the cultural and artistic impulses of the beginning of the 20th century! Starting right from Isadora Duncan’s love of Greek art and from her break with academic canons, the exhibition begins with a terra cotta statue that depicts a maenad dancing, wearing an invisible peplum. This statue is placed next to ‘La grande danseuse’, a painting by Federico Zandomenghi which depicts a ballerina in a tutu and pointe shoes. A dialogue emerges between these two works of art, representing the ‘before and after’ of ballet, at first marked by rigid rules and then taken over by a breath of freedom blown by the indomitable soul of Isadora. Among the authors who were fascinated by our protagonist it is worth mentioning Eugene Carriere's portrait and the three splendid bronzes by Antoine Bourdelle, one of which seems explicitly inspired by Mrs Duncan herself. There are also some wonderfully poignant images that portray the dancer performing barefoot on the Venetian seashore, images linked to 10 wonderful drawings by Plinio Nomellini who was struck and inspired by the image of her dancing on the beach of Viareggio, where she was invited by Mrs Duse. The Isadora Duncan exhibition unfolds inside Florence’s Villa Bardini and inside Museo Bardini, which is a ten-minute walk away. On display inside the villa there are many documents, photographs and objects as well as many works from public and private collections. At the Stefano Bardini museum, a special section will be dedicated to large sculptures and paintings. Altogether the exhibition itinerary in the two locations brings together 175 elements and more than 70 artists including painters, Italian and international photographers. This is all created in order to create what the organizers consider to be a real ‘gift to lovers of dance and art’.

Are you ready to come to Tuscany and be surrounded by the bohemian atmosphere of the early 20th century? And for lovers of dance, aren’t you curious to get to know where all the modern trends of dance come from? All you have to do is go to the official website (www.villabardini.it) of Villa Bardini for opening hours and all the information you need to plan your visit to this wonderful exhibition. The entry ticket to Villa Bardini for the Isadora Duncan exhibition, in addition to the villa itself, also allows you to visit Museo Annigoni, housed inside the same building.

We are also sure that if you enjoy the view of Florence from the splendid observation point at this beautiful historic residence, you will want to go and explore the city – if not for the first time, for a deeper exploration. In any case, whether it is your first time or you regularly return to the city we all love, book our Your own Florence tour and create with our guides your special route around the magical cradle of the Renaissance.

 

Isadora Duncan Exhibition - dates: from 13 April to 22 September 2019 

Location: Villa Bardini (Costa San Giorgio, 2) – Museo Stefano Bardini (Via dei Renai, 37)

By Insidecom Editorial Staff