Gluck — Orfeo ed Eurydice, Act II, Scene 1, Dance of the Furies

Reconstructed by Julia Levien.

Notes

Barbara Kane

Furies-Eumenides-Eriynes are Ancient Greek mythological creatures – often just 3 women who were created literarily to frighten the patriarchal forming societies of the danger of male dominance. This dance uses the floor and movement that varies very differently from Duncan’s previously mainly lyrical dances. Snake like hand gestures, use of contraction and what must have seemed to the audience of 1911 something just horrendously ugly and yet it had a deep impact because, as always, beauty (the music of Orpheus/Gluck) overcame their distrust of Orpheus and they let him pass on his search for Eurydice.

Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck

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

Duncan and Gluck were both impatient with "needless ornamentation." The Furies are portrayed as raw souls condemned often to useless labor, like Sisyphus lifting heavy stones only to have them "thunder impetuous down." They refuse Orpheus permission to enter the Gates of Hell in search of Eurydice, and terrify him with their bodily contortions, clawing hands, twisted arms and writhing torsos as they savagely pound fists against unyielding, invisible barriers. Finally, cowering together, they restrain their savagery, succumb to the pleading of Orpheus and allow him to pass. The figure ot Orpheus is not represented in this dance.

According to Greek mythology, the Furies were female deities assigned to administer vengeance and punishment upon earthly transgressors. In the Duncan choreography, they are condemned souls. The accompanying operatic text refers to them as, "howling hell hounds with foam-dripping fangs."

Cynthia Splatt

Reference: Duncan, Dorée; Carol Pratl and Cynthia Splatt (eds.) Life Into Art. Isadora Duncan and Her World. Foreword by Agnes de Mille. Text by Cynthia Splatt. W. W. Norton & Company, 1993. ISBN 0-393-03507-7

The dances for Gluck's Orpheus were remarkable in their scope. Isadora played one of the Blessed Spirits in the Elysian Fields but also the Furies in Hades. Her portrayal of the damned and demonic Furies was unlike any dance seen on stage before. Sweeping the stage with her hair, clawing the air with contorted fingers, mouthing unutterable screams, vainly writhing in hideously reptilian postures, she was repulsive to behold, the personification of impotent evil. This was dance at its ugliest—a terrifying portrayal of the dark side of soul. This was Modern Dance, unafraid of the reality. Even the once uncertain American audiences appreciated her work.

Videos

Title Date Dancers Full Dance? Notes
Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Dance Company 2013-2014 Season Highlights 2014 No
Isadora and the American Jewish Intelligentsia 2000 Cathleen Deutscher, Beth Jucovy, Adrienne Ramm No Part II
Dances by Isadora: Furies 1997 Kelli Edwards, Sandra Zarotney-Keldsen Yes
Duncan Dance Continuum 1994-06-03 Yes Including the aria between Parts I and II
Isadora Duncan's 110th Birthday Celebration 1987 Lori Belilove Yes Only Part I
Dances by Isadora: Furies Catherine Gallant Yes
Excerpts from Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Dancers No
Gemze, Sylvia, and Julia perform Dance of the Furies Gemze de Lappe, Sylvia Gold, Julia Levien Yes
Isadora Duncan Repertory Dance Company performs Dance of the Furies Yes
A View of Isadora Duncan with Julia Levien No Excerpt of Part II from a class taught by Julia Levien
A View of Isadora Duncan with Julia Levien Yes Staged by Julia Levien
Excerpts from Movement from the Soul Lori Belilove No

Related items in the Archives

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Photos > Furies

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

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, The Heritage of Isadora — 1989

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

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Duncan Dance Festival — Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company — 1978

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 > Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company — Jun 24, 1978

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

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Homage to Isadora — Madeleine Lytton — 1984

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

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Isadora Duncan Dance Group — 1989

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

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