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Duncan Hindsight

When she began performing more than 100 years ago, Isadora Duncan's bare feet and uncorseted body shocked Victorian audiences and drew their attention away from her remarkable new technique. This week, less-inhibited Houstonians can evaluate Duncan's extraordinary contributions to dance for themselves thanks to the Isadora Duncan Project, which commemorates the modern-dance pioneer's 121st birthday by bringing her original choreography back to life.

"Duncan broke with ballet and sought to use the natural power of the body. She thought that dance should have an idea," says Ann Cogley, a fourth-generation Duncan dancer and the associate director of the Isadora Duncan Heritage Society of San Francisco. Cogley, speaking by phone, adds that "music brought a landscape of emotions to dance for Duncan"; Cogley has selected Duncan pieces set to works by Chopin, Gluck and Brahms. One of the featured dances, created early in Duncan's career, demonstrates the choreographer's penchant for mining Greek and Renaissance art for imagery. Set to Schubert and based on Botticelli's Primavera, the work, Cogley says, demonstrates "Duncan's belief ... that movement should be flowing and without stops or straight lines, as in nature." To re-create Duncan's work as closely as possible, the program will feature copies of original Duncan costumes.

Local dancer/instructor Carrie Peters, co-coordinator of the Duncan Project, explains her love affair with Duncan's work: "People have this myth that she was just a nymph running around in chiffon. The style is beautiful and simple, yet very demanding for the dancer. Her technique comes from the ability to have an emotional quality to your movement and to have your whole body, spirit and mind present on-stage."

-- Melissa Jacobs

The Isadora Duncan Project: 8 p.m. Thursday, May 7, and Saturday, May 9; 3 p.m. Sunday, May 10. The Jewish Community Center, 5601 South Braeswood. Info: 551-7255. $12; $7 for students and seniors.

 
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