Mignon Garland (1908-1999)
- Primary teachers: Anna Duncan | Irma Duncan
- Students: Lori Belilove | Ann Cogley | Christina Fessenden | Lois Ann Flood | Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) | Annah G McCluskey | Melinda McGee | Mary Sano | Wendy Smith
- Areas of expertise: Performer, Teacher, Repertory Coach
- Region: USA - West
Mignon Garland (1908-1999), born in Brooklyn, studied ballet and other forms of dance as a child and was 13 when she performed at New York's Town Hall. After seeing a performance by Anna Duncan in 1927, she decided to devote her life to Duncan dancing.
She toured internationally with the Minneapolis Symphony as a member of the American Duncan Dance Company under the direction of Irma Duncan in 1930. After a United States tour, the pupils of the Russian school founded by Isadora Duncan invited Ms. Garland to study and dance with them in Moscow in 1931. During 1931-32 she performed in Russia with the Moscow Duncan Dance Company. After her return in 1933, Ms. Garland helped found the New Duncan Dancers performing in Europe and the United States until 1938. She was also a dance editor of New Theater magazine.
In 1942 Ms. Garland formed the Contemporary Duncan Dancers with two other prominent Duncan disciples, Hortense Kooluris and Julia Levien. The group performed at Carnegie Hall in 1944 with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Barzin. In 1952 the original members of Irma Duncan Dancers marked the 25th anniversary of Duncan's death with a concert at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York.
After moving to Berkeley, California in 1957, Ms. Garland lived for many years in San Francisco at 501 Taylor Street, the site of Isadora Duncan's birth. In 1973 Ms. Garland founded the Isadora Duncan Heritage Society in San Francisco and later that year she and Irma Duncan joined force to place a commemorative plaque for Isadora Duncan’s birth site. The ceremony was attended by Irma Duncan and to further honor the occasion, Ms. Garland performed with her company, the San Francisco Duncan Dancers.
Isadora Duncan's legend remained alive, but performances of her works became infrequent after the 1950's until Ms. Garland helped promote the current Duncan revival that began with the 1977 centenary of the dance pioneer's birth. Mayor George Moscone proclaimed May 26, 1977 as Isadora Duncan Centenary Day, and Ms. Garland's company, the San Francisco Duncan Dancers performed in Colonial Concert Hall.
She toured the Soviet Union with several members of her company in 1977. In 1982 she performed in Japan and formed, along with her protégée Mary Sano, the Tokyo branch of the Isadora Duncan Heritage Society. She was invited back to Japan to perform at the International Modern Dance Festival in 1985. Working with San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ms. Garland succeeded in having a street renamed Isadora Duncan Lane adjacent to Duncan’s birth site in 1988.
Ms. Garland was also trained as an elementary school teacher at the Maxwell Training School in Brooklyn and like her parents, she was active in social and political causes. Her mother, Rose Heiman Halpern, helped Margaret Sanger open a birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916; her father, William Halpern, was defeated as a candidate for the New York State Assembly. Ms. Garland was denied a permanent teaching license in New York City. According to her son, Victor Garlin, the reason for this was ''her political organizing for improved schools in Harlem.''
After moving to California, Ms. Garland taught Duncan dancing under the auspices of the San Francisco Art Commission Neighborhood Arts Program and in private schools. She opened her own studio in 1973, teaching two to three Duncan dance classes weekly for 20 years. She gave her last major recital with her students in 1989.
In addition to her son Victor of Berkeley, California, she is survived by two granddaughters.
New Duncan Dancers — Director, Founder (1933—1934)
Related items in the Archives
Lewis, Maggie. "The Isadora Duncan Perplex," San Francisco Bay Guardian, Nov. 7-Nov. 14, 1975, interview with Mignon Garland.
Tucker, Marilyn. "Naivete and Charm In Dance," San Francisco Chronicle, May 28, 1977 (review of San Francisco Duncan Dancers 100th anniversary performance).