Lisa Duncan (1898-1976)

Lisa Duncan, born Elisabeth Milker, 1898 in Dresden. Known for her “airy leaps” and once described in the press as “long haired and long legged, physically the best dancer of any of them (a Sun reporter’s comments after the 1914 American debut of the Isadorables, from Kurth’s Isadora, a Sensational Life, p. 329). In 1918, Genthe’s portrait of Lisa, holding a torch of liberty as the “Angel of the Battlefield” was used as a poster for the Red Cross (Kurth, p. 367).

Among many beautiful photos of Lisa dancing is the one that graces the cover of a 1984 paperback edition of Where She Danced by Elizabeth Kendall. Lisa’s last performance with Isadora was on June 7, 1921 in London with Maria-Theresa and Irma. Lisa taught in New York briefly but settled in Paris where she taught and performed. Lisa passed on several of the Duncan dances in their pure form to her students. In her own choreography, however, she used used her Duncan trained body as a starting point to define her own esthetic. Her colleague George Pomies encouraged her to use more elaborate costuming and theatrical lighting. Loewenthal describes several of her dances (The Search for Isadora, pp. 89-90). One successful creation was “Apparition,” set to the music of Chopin “an imaginative simulation of a winged creature in flight.” Lisa’s “rapid motions of her flexible arms, suggestive of subtle and undulating wings, … so magical and descriptive that audiences visually conceived a soaring, celestial bird.” Although sometimes criticized for moving beyond Isadora’s choreography, Lisa was successful and popular during the years before World War II. Among her many students were Madelaine Lytton and Odile Pyros. Lisa died in 1976 in Dresden.

Texte écrit par Johana GIOT

Lisa Duncan, est née à Dresde (Allemagne) en 1898 et décédée à Dresde en 1976

Confiée à Isadora Duncan à l'âge de six ans, Lisa Milker, qui devient Lisa Duncan en 1920, fait partie de ces danseuses isadoriennes que Fernand Divoire nommait les Isadorables.
Elevée par Isadora, puis par sa sœur Elizabeth, Lisa passe son enfance entre l'Allemagne et la France avant de partir, lorsque la première guerre mondiale éclate, à New-York. Là-bas, elle se produit sur scène dès 1917 accompagnée d'Irma, Anna, Maria-Theresa, Margo et Erika. Sous le nom de « danseuses d'Isadora », Lisa et ses compagnes dansent ensuite en France et en Belgique au début des années 1920.
Adoptée officiellement par Isadora afin d'obtenir la nationalité américaine et de pouvoir rentrer en Europe sans encombre (sa nationalité allemande, même la guerre terminée, ne lui permettait pas de regagner Paris), Lisa poursuit le travail de celle-ci et enseigne la danse à de nombreux enfants à Paris pendant le temps de l'entre-deux guerres.
Elle danse aussi régulièrement au Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, dirigé alors par Louis Jouvet, soit en solo, soit avec ses élèves, reprenant les danses d'Isadora mais inventant aussi ses propres chorégraphies, dans un style parfois très différent de celles de son illustre mère spirituelle.
Sa rencontre avec Georges Pomiès au début des années 1930 lui donne l'occasion de se produire en duo. La mort prématurée de ce dernier puis la seconde guerre mondiale mettent un terme à sa carrière fulgurante.
Après les guerres, malgré plusieurs tentatives pour ouvrir une nouvelle école, Lisa mène une vie miséreuse et donne son dernier récital en 1947 avant de quitter la France pour l'Allemagne où sa sœur Charlotte prend soin d'elle jusqu'à son décès en 1976.
Written by Johana GIOT

Lisa Duncan was born in Dresden (Germany) in 1898 and died in Dresden in 1976

Entrusted to Isadora Duncan at the age of six years, Lisa Milker , becomes Lisa Duncan in 1920 and is one of those dancers that isadorienne writer Fernand Divoire named the Isadorables .

Raised by Isadora and her sister Elizabeth , Lisa spent her childhood at the Duncan schools in Germany and France before leaving, when World War I broke out, to New York. There, she performed on stage in 1917 along with Irma , Anna, Maria- Theresa , Margo and Erika . Under the name of “Isadora Duncan Dancers ", Lisa and her companions then danced in France and Belgium in the early 1920s .

Formally adopted by Isadora to obtain American citizenship and to be able to travel to Europe without a hitch (her German nationality, even after the war ended, did not allow her to return to Paris), Lisa continue the work of this and taught dance to many children in Paris during the time of the interwar period.

She also danced regularly at the Theatre des Champs- Elysees, then headed by Louis Jouvet , either solo or with his students, showing the dances of Isadora but also inventing her own choreography in a very different style.

Her meeting with Georges Pomiès in the early 1930s gave her the opportunity to perform as a duo. The premature death of the latter and the Second World War put an end to her brilliant career.

After the wars, despite several attempts to open a new school, Lisa lead a destitute life and gave her last recital in 1947 before leaving France for Germany, where her sister Charlotte took care of her until her death in 1976.


Affiliations

Isadora Duncan Dancers (Isadorables)

Related items in the Archives

The San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design > Photos > Margot, Lisa, and Anna

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Photos > Anna and Lisa Duncan

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Photos > Anna, Lisa, and Margot press clipping

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Photos > Isadorables

The San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design > Programs > Lisa Duncan

The San Francisco Museum of Performance and Design > Programs > Isadorables — Dec 28, 1919

The Collection of Joanna Gewertz Harris > Programs > Isadorables at Palais au Trocadero — Anna, Maria-Teresa, Irma, Lisa, Margot and Erica Duncan — 1920

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Programs > Isadorables

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Other > Lisa Duncan postcard