Isadora: The Sensational Life Of Isadora Duncan by Peter Kurth - review by Hugo Vickers

Hugo Vickers

She Liked to Dance Naked on Beaches

Isadora: The Sensational Life Of Isadora Duncan


Little Brown 652pp £25

Before reading this compelling study, I knew little of the details of Isadora Duncan’s extraordinary life. I was familiar with the goddess image, of course, and someone who had seen her dance in Paris in the early 1900s had given me a first-hand account, expressing surprise at the audience’s ecstatic response. Furthermore, I had battled with a transcription of Isadora’s now famous poem to Mercedes de Acosta, which ends:

My kisses like a swarm of bees
Would find their way
Between thy knees
And suck the honey of thy lips
Embracing thy two slender hips

This ode, combined with the letters of Marlene Dietrich, gave me the confidence to take de Acosta seriously as a seductress of women –‘the Prince Valiant of American literary lesbians’, as Kurth describes her here (Greta Garbo was amongst her conquests).

For many, it is Isadora’s tragic death, when she was

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