Gluck — Orfeo ed Eurydice, Act III, no. 29, Dance of the Blessed Spirits

Reconstructed by Hortense Kooluris and Julia Levien.

Notes

Andrea Mantell Seidel

Reference: Seidel, Andrea. Isadora Duncan in the 21st Century: Capturing the Art and Spirit of the Dancer's Legacy. McFarland Press, 2015.

In the opening flute solo in Act II, set in the mythical Elysian Fields, the dancer shields her face with her long, weighted scarf as if blinded by shame or walking through darkness. In the opera, Elysium or the Elysian Fields represents an ancient Greek conception of the heavenly, blissful afterlife. Arriving in the Elysian Fields, Orfeo finds no solace in the blissful beauty of his surroundings for his Eurydice is not yet with him. He implores the spirits to reunite him with his beloved.

As the dancer majestically opens the scarf, her arms gesture towards the mythical light of Elysium in the distance. The curving arcs of Duncan's signature swaying motion that often evoke water and waves suggest in this dance, a healing ritual that wipes away the vestiges of sorrow and tragedy. Directed at the phalanx of dancers poised symmetrically to her right and left, she weaves through the lines of dancers like a high priestess cleansing humanity of its sins. Standing solemnly in place, the chorus of dancers arc and sway their upper bodies from side to side in long, languished sighs. As the lines of dancers rise up on their toes and then gently fall and skim lightly across the floor in horizontal lines, crossing from left to right or right to left and back again, they symbolize heavenly spirits who uplift Orpheus in his despair and release him from the underworld. On a more universal level, the chorus of heavenly spirits suggests a conquering of the carnal nature, a triumph of the spirit and a harbinger of hope and light in the midst of darkness.

Barbara Kane

The version by Hortense Kooluris brings a calm search in the Elysian Fields for a deepest peacefulness with gestures of opening up and discovering a world full of innocence and beauty. There are many references to how Isadora Duncan entered and seemed effortlessly to suddenly be at the other side of the stage.

Eurydice is joined in the Elysian Paradise by the Blessed Spirits – a gentle dance of floating and Botticelli images of soft winds and deepest wonder at all that surrounds one and all.

Videos

Title Date Dancers Full Dance? Notes
Dances by Isadora at Jacobs Pillow 7-13-17 INSIDE/OUT Series 2017-07-13 Patricia Adams, Natalia Brillante, Marie Carstens, Michelle Cohen, Kelli Edwards, Irene Lutts, Loretta Thomas, Francesca Todesco, Sandra Zarotney-Keldsen Yes
Blessed Spirits at Jacob's Pillow 2017 Dances by Isadora 2017 Yes Group section only
Hortense Kooluris Memorial Tribute 2007-08-01 No
Isadora Duncan Dance Group: Dance of the Blessed Spirits 2003-09-06 Barbara Kane, Children of Manami Asano's Pal Ballet School, Ichihara, Japan Yes Including flute solo
Duncan Dance Continuum 1994-06-03 Yes Including flute solo
Isadora Duncan's 110th Birthday Celebration 1987 Lori Belilove, Jeanne Bresciani, Adrienne Ramm Yes
The Beliloveables No
Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company performs Blessed Spirits Lori Belilove, Jeanne Bresciani, Barbara Kane, Hortense Kooluris, Judith Ann Landon, Adrienne Ramm, Susan Sparkman Yes
A View of Isadora Duncan with Julia Levien No Excerpt from rehearsal
A View of Isadora Duncan with Julia Levien Yes Includes the flute solo. Staged by Julia Levien.

Related items in the Archives

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

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Irma Duncan — Apr 23, 1937

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Riverside Dance Festival — Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company — May 26, 1977

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Riverside Dance Festival — Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company — Jan 05, 1978

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > The Dance of Isadora Duncan — Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company — Jun 10, 1978

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Riverside Dance Festival — Julia Levien — Isadora Duncan Commemorative Dance Company — 1980

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Linda Elkin — Isadora Duncan Dancers — Nov 05, 1987

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Ballroom Blitz — Barbara Kane — Isadora Duncan Dance Group, Moscow School of Music and Movement — Aug 04, 1993

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > The Enduring Essence — Ligoa Duncan — Isadora Duncan Dance Group — 2004

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