Scriabin — Etude, Op. 42, No. 5 (The Crossing)

“Crossing” is part of a trilogy of dances that Duncan created around 1923 to the Etudes of Scriabin. This work was reconstructed and staged by Julia Levien in 1992 and first performed by Adrienne Ramm in NYC.


Julia Levien

Reference: Nahumck, Nadia Chilkovsky. Isadora Duncan: The Dances. Washington DC: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1994.

Irma mentioned Isadora showing her the Scriabin cluster. It must have been early in 1927 in Moscow... I learned it from Irma when she was preparing our Carnegie Hall concert, 1931... Irma needed me to know all three Etudes especially. I had to give all lighting and curtain cues... I was the only one she showed them to. She was the only one who had learned them from Isadora!....

Irma started the dance, almost not dancing, just indicating directions with trembling starts—each phrase grew... I have reconstructed the dance from only my visceral and visual kinetic memory—I seem to have a special brain that stores such experiences in total recall. The performers then bring to the dance their own understanding and experience of the stuff of life!....

The Etudes (all three) were always performed by Irma one after another as they appear on Isadora's program listing for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, November 1923.

The title The Crossing emerged from among students during the teaching... It seems to be about enduring of a will to survive even death—perhaps inspired by her witnessing a shooting during the Revolution in Russia [on] an early visit, 1904-07. The moment seemed "frozen" in her mind.

The costume Irma wore was a long, rust-colored tunic. I added a light silk-jersey, gunmetal shawl at least two yards wide, pinned to the shoulder and back of tunic. One long end is carried in front of the neck and over the opposite shoulder.

... lighting is important, much atmosphere to create. Like the other Etudes they end with blackout after dimming.

Catherine Gallant

Isadora was riding on a train in Russia during her first visit there in 1905 and witnessed a man being shot as he ran across a field. In the choreography, this recollection of the impact, the suspended stillness, and the fall to the ground are repeated in a furious encounter with rebellion and destiny. The bound flow of the axial movement embodies the fight or flight response as the last hopeful gesture remains in question.


Title Date Dancers Full Dance? Notes
Dances by Isadora: The Crossing 2012 Natalia Brillante Yes
Catherine Gallant performs three Scriabin Etudes 2009 Catherine Gallant Yes
Isadora and the American Jewish Intelligentsia 2000 Catherine Gallant Yes
Duncan Dance Continuum 1995 Yes

Related items in the Archives

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Second American Tour — Irma Duncan — Moscow Duncan Dancers

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