Mignon Garland (1908-1999)

Photo by Lotte Jacobi

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.

Thea Keats and Nancy Isham, Mignon's students, 1978. Photo by Harvey Schwartz.

Affiliations

New Duncan Dancers — Director, Founder (1933—1934)

Links

The Collection of Mignon Garland

Related items in the Archives

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Irma Duncan's Isadora Duncan Dancers in Cuba

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Teaching in New York, 1949-1951

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Tokyo Performances, 1985

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Mignon and Ann Cogley

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Visit/Workshop with Irma Duncan, 1973

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Julia Levien, Hortense Dolan (Kooluris), Mignon Garland — 1942

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Mignon Garland, Hortense Dolan (Kooluris) and Julia Levien — 1943

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Nancy Isham, Mignon Garland, Thea Keats — 1978

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > Celebration of Isadora with Burlingame Historical Society — May 26, 1991

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Photos > American Isadora Duncan Dancers — 1930

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Photos > Mignon Garland in 1975

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Photos > Memorial Performance Dancers

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > Isadora Duncan Dancers in Minneapolis — 1930

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > Worker's Dance League Recital — Jan 07, 1934

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > Duncan Dance Congress Program — Nov 15, 1942

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > Second Duncan Dance Guild Program — 1943

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > The Isadora Duncan Dance Memorial, 1952 — Dec 14, 1952

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > Mignon Garland and Hortense Kooluris Performance — 1971

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers — Feb 1974

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, Program of Dances — 1975

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S. F. Duncan Dancers, 8th Annual Concert — 1980

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, Workshop Production — Apr 1980

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, 9th Annual Presentation — 1981

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, Palo Alto — Jan 1982

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers with Florence Atherton Dickey — Jul 1982

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, Program of Duncan-Brahms Waltzes — 1983

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, Dance Recital — 1984

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Programs > Isadora Duncan Dance Memorial — Ruth Fletcher, Mary Garland, Hortense Kooluris, Sima Leake, Julia Levien — Dec 14, 1952

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Articles > Duncan Congress, Dance Magazine Article 1943 — 1943

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Articles > The Tokyo Times — Oct 15, 1985

The San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design > News Clippings > Interview with Mignon Garland

The Collection of Mignon Garland > News Clippings > S.F. Bay Guardian, 1975, Interview with Mignon

The Collection of Joanna Gewertz Harris > News Clippings > 'Keeping the Spirit Alive: The San Francisco Duncan Dancers will perform Friday' — May 25, 1977

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Other > Opening Announcement of Mignon's Classes, 1928, N.Y.

Related references

Kisselgoff, Anna. "Mignon Garland Dies at 91; Disciple of Isadora Duncan." New York Times, 24 September 1999.

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).