Meghen McKinley as Isadora Duncan

“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.”

-Isadora Duncan

Known as the “Mother of Modern Dance,” Isadora Duncan was a revolutionary whose influence spread around the globe. Her style of dancing embraced the notion of free-spiritedness coupled with Ancient Greek ideals of beauty, philosophy, and humanity. She brought a totally new way to dance. As a defender of the free spirit, Isadora was a strong influence and she can be credited with developing what came to be known as Modern Dance. As she danced with free-flowing costumes, bare feet, and loose hair, she took to the stage inspired by the ancient Greeks, the music of classical composers, the wind and the sea. Isadora elevated dance to a high place among the arts, returning the discipline to its roots as a sacred art. She left behind the restrictive corsets of the Victorian era and broke away from the strict vocabulary ballet. Isadora embraced artists, philosophers, and writers as her teachers and guides. According to Isadora, the development of her dance was a natural phenomenon and rediscovery of the classical principles of beauty, motion, and form. Her dances were born of the impulse to embrace life’s bittersweet challenges, meeting destiny and fate head-on in her own whirlwind journey, filled with both tragedy and ecstasy. As she surprised and shocked some audience members, she inspired others. She was a champion for women‘s rights during her time. Many saw a vision for the future in her work. She has inspired artists, thinkers, and idealists everywhere.

Meghen Leigh Mckinley captured as Isadora

“The freedom in her movement is contagious. You cannot help but feel happy, engaged, and sensory aware when embodying her philosophies and movement aesthetics. The complete breakaway and disapproval of the current state of dance during her time allows the recreation of her open chest, articulate feet, and jubilant natural movement to feel as liberating now as I’m sure it was intended to be at the time. Reflecting upon her philosophies, her tenacity, and strength in her voice helps me to continue to be inspired. Inspiration of elements that I am surrounded by, allowing large bodies of movement to reflect smaller elements in nature, use of breath, free flow of limbs and body through space, a new sense of femininity, all become enlightening when we feel the pressure of restrictions and perfection. Women like Duncan and other modern dance figures gave strength to the female voice and body in a time in which it was unacceptable. Heart, passion, awareness, and tenacity are what we should encourage in ourselves and in our dancers. It was liberating, even if for a brief moment of this shoot, to be her…wind in my hair, textures beneath my feet, the feel of fluid silk on my skin. Thank you Isadora.

-Meghen Leigh Mckinley

Professor of Modern, Ballet, Jazz, Dance in Culture, Choreography, Improvisation at Western Kentucky University.