The dancers trained in the technique and philosophy of modern-dance pioneer Isadora Duncan (1878 – 1927) already danced at Untermyer Gardens! Having missed both opportunities (first in 1922, then in 1932), I’m so grateful to be attending an update of this essential American modern-dance history on Labor Day weekend. That’s this Sunday evening at six pm, as director Lori Belilove is proudly re-staging the tradition of Duncan Dance in a spectacular setting.
The benefactors of the 43-acre gardens in Yonkers, New York, Samuel and Minnie Untermyer, themselves watched The Isadorables (Duncan’s student performance troupe) perform at Untermyer Estate Park, then called Greystone.
Attorney Samuel Untermyer was one of the most prominent American Jews of his day. He was a prominent Zionist, and was President of the Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal). He was the president of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League from 1933-1938, and advocated for a worldwide boycott of Germany and the destruction of Hitler’s regime. The British press called him “Hitler’s Bitterest Foe.” To soften the edge of all this hard social/political action, Samuel, who was passionate and knowledgeable about horticulture, cultivated his garden.
His wife, Minnie Untermyer, was prominent in cultural circles in New York City. She was one of a small group that transformed the New York Philharmonic in 1909, and brought Gustav Mahler to conduct the orchestra. She was also President of the Poetry Society of America. Along with her husband, she supported women’s suffrage.
The tradition continued when Isadora Duncan Dancers, the troupe formed under the direction of Irma Duncan (Duncan’s surviving sister) returned to the site in 1932. A beautiful setting for this serene, yet vibrant early form of modern dance.
Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Dance Company | Untermyer Gardens, Yonkers, NY | Sept 4, 6 pm