Hortense Kooluris (1914-2007)
- Primary teachers: Anna Duncan | Elizabeth Duncan | Irma Duncan
- Additional teachers: Anita Zahn
- Students: Lori Belilove | Maria Boscaino | Jeanne Bresciani | Theda Detlor (Rosenbluth) | Lois Ann Flood | Roberta Hoffman | Beth Jucovy | Barbara Kane | Julia Keefer | Marilyn Klaus | Judith Ann Landon | Reiko Morita | Kathleen Quinlan | Jennifer Sprowl | Amy Swanson | Mark Trider | Heddy Weiss
- Areas of expertise: Performer, Teacher, Repertory Coach, Historian
- Region: USA - Northeast
Born Hortense Dolan in 1914 into a large family of talented musicians and painters, who were to inspire Christina Stead’s novel The People with the Dogs, Hortense was dancing almost as soon as she could walk. At age six she began training in New York with Elizabeth Duncan, Isadora’s sister. At 15 she was the youngest member of the Irma Duncan dancers, and performed with them from 1930 to 1933 when Irma retired. Among many other places, the company danced from Carnegie Hall to as far away as Havana. Their final performance in Madison Square Gardens was in a program for World Peace with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony played by the Philadelphia Symphony.
Hortense was a gentle spirit of extraordinary grace and charm. Her personal beauty was celebrated by a number of artists, including the photographer Arnold Genthe, the sculptor Mario Corbel and the painter Nathan Dolinsky; and in later life by her son, photographer Kirby Kooluris, photographer Claudine Laabs and by her daughter, portrait-artist Linda Kooluris Dobbs. In herself Hortense was modest, graceful and unstintingly generous and hospitable. Her sense of humor made her a delightful companion.
From 1933 the young dancer continued as a soloist and teacher, conducting master classes at schools, colleges and universities. She toured with Agnes DeMille’s American Heritage Theater production, “Conversations about the Dance” both on stage and in the PBS program, in which she danced with Gemze DeLappe and the Joffrey Ballet.
To augment her income, Hortense taught ballroom dancing in an Arthur Murray studio in New Jersey. It was there that she met her husband in 1943, Spyros George Kooluris ( September 14, 1914), owner of the successful Suburban restaurant next door. They settled some years later in Short Hills, where Kirby and Linda, their two children, grew up. Married, Hortense remained dedicated to her children and her art, continuing to lecture and perform until she was 84, when an automobile accident put an end to her dancing days. Characteristically, at the time, she was taking classes in tap-dancing and ballet.
Sought after as an exponent and teacher of Duncan dance, she performed and taught in Tokyo, where she partnered the eminent Japanese dancer Kazua Ohno. She danced and lectured in Toronto and at the Sorbonne in Paris. In Athens she performed near the Acropolis , and at age 79 led an outdoor recital in front of the World Trade Center at Lincoln Square, New York. Many of the present-day Duncan stars were trained by Hortense, and give prominence to the fact in their websites.
With her Irma Duncan colleague, Julia Levien, she founded the Centenary Dance Company which gave its first performance in 1977 at the Riverside Theater, New York, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Isadora Duncan’s birth.
In 1982 she served on the Evaluating Committee for Dance of the New Jersey Council on the Arts. Throughout the decade she danced, lectured and taught master classes at Smith College, Douglas College, Rutgers and York University and many other respected schools. In 1990 she became a member of the National Society of Arts and Letters. In the next four years she conducted master classes at New York University. Until her accident, she was often consulted on matters concerning dance and especially the Duncan dance.
Reporters and other visitors to her home were enchanted by the diminutive spectacle of Hortense in her flimsy Grecian costume floating among the trees and roses of her garden like a lovely wood-nymph. “Every time I give up dancing,” she told one of these guests, “something always draws me back.” Whether it was an invitation from a university to conduct master classes, or a summons to perform, she faithfully obeyed the call. A great deal of contemporary interest in the Duncan dance was inspired by Hortense’s devoted work.
Isadora Duncan: Technique and Choreography. Dance Films Association, Distributer: Virginia Brooks. (Hortense and Julia). 1978. 29 minutes. 48 W. 21st Street, #907, NY, NY 10010 (212) 727-0764.
Memorial Tribute for Hortense Kooluris
The Legacy of the Choreography of Isadora Duncan. Dance Films Association (members only). (Hortense and Julia). 1988. 45 minutes.
Isadora Duncan Commemorative (Centenary) Dance Company — Founder
Isadora Duncan Dancers USA
Rubato Dance Company — Advisor
New Duncan Dancers — Performer (1933—1934)
|Catherine Gallant and Dances by Isadora YouTube channel||Hortense Kooluris performs Bacchanale||1987|
|The Collection of Adrienne Ramm||Isadora Duncan's 110th Birthday Celebration||1987|
|Sylvia Gold's YouTube channel||Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company performs Three Graces|
|Sylvia Gold's YouTube channel||Hortense Kooluris performs Rose Petals|
|Sylvia Gold's YouTube channel||Gemze, Hortense, Julia, and Sylvia perform Cymbals|
|Sylvia Gold's YouTube channel||Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company performs Blessed Spirits|
|Sylvia Gold's YouTube channel||Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company performs Brahms 7|
|Sylvia Gold's YouTube channel||Hortense and the Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company performs Cherubim|
|Sylvia Gold's YouTube channel||Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company performs Ave Maria|
Related items in the Archives
Gilford, Barbara. "A Link to the Legend of Isadora Duncan," The New York Times, August 2, 1992 (about Hortense Kooluris).