Chopin — Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2 (Narcissus)

Isadora choreographed her version of the Narcissus story as early as 1904 when she gave her first all-Chopin program. It is one of the dances that influenced the formation of the Ballet Russes, and Fokine's creation of Les Sylphides. Isadora's dance addresses the myth of Narcissus and Echo, including a lovely interlude with Narcissus looking at himself in the pool of water. One of Isadora's pure interpretations of Greek mythology.


Valerie Durham

Isadora Duncan's portrayal as a woman onstage of the male Narcissus was bold and expressive. Her use of Greek mythology as a basis for the universal emotions of humanity, the archetypal qualities of personality and character, allowed her to call upon broadly known classical traditions, presented in a fresh way, embodied by the modern woman onstage, to concert classical music.

As a dance, Narcissus is lush and robust. The opening gestures of sweeping sways and open side to side leg gestures bespeak of an individual in a world unto self. Then the dancer presents that self by coming forward and back in a series of rushes forward and waltzes back. A bubbling run from corner to corner, with the slightest indication that Narcissus hears the calling Echo, resolves in the dancer's reclined exploration and indulgence of her own reflection in a pool of water. The mesmerizing reflection carries the dancer into a spinning turn that bursts back into the opening self-celebratory phrase. The dance climaxes in another series of rushing runs and twirls as Narcissus loses self in the dance, in self love and adoration. The dance can end both with an exalted exit off stage or a return to the laying down position by the pool of water.

Andrea Mantell Seidel

The dance traverses a multiplicity of emotional moods ranging from Narcissus' self-absorption, to a wistful joy in the illusion of a love that might be, to the pain and loss of Echo's unrequited love. The dancer is the myth embodied; she is the beloved and the lover, alternately Echo and Narcissus, and the song that all lovers sing. In the allegro sections, the dancer spins rapidly in place as if lost in a reverie of blissful memories of a love that once was or a fantasy of a love that might be, only to emerge out of her reverie into an empty aloneness. She darts, turns, and runs in waltz rhythms in pursuit of her beloved, a Narcissus who appears, vanishes and reappears in her mind's eye. In the middle adagio section, the dancer becomes wistful, almost melancholy, as she reflects on the impossibility of love as she slowly descends to the floor. As she reclines backwards luxuriously, her arm draped across her head and the soft folds of her tunic caressing her body, the dancer transforms into a Greek god or goddess for a still moment. She rises and turns to gaze into an imaginary pool of water, self-absorbed in her own reflection.


Title Date Dancers Full Dance? Notes
Harp and Narcissus 2022-05-28 Christy Cornell-Pape Yes
Soiree Duncan Dance - Meg Brooker performs Narcissus 2014 Meg Brooker Yes
Narcissus at Jordan Hall 2013-05-26 Kelli Edwards Yes
Dances by Isadora: Narcissus 1995 Loretta Thomas Yes
Isadora Duncan's 110th Birthday Celebration 1987 Jeanne Bresciani Yes
Summer Flight 1983-07-22 Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) Yes
DDD at Golden Gate Bandshell 1983 Maria Rosario Villasana Yes
DFI Cunningham 1980 Jeanne Bresciani Yes
Excerpts from Movement from the Soul Lori Belilove No

Related items in the Archives

The Collection of Lynn Armentrout > Programs > An Evening with Isadora — The Isadora Duncan Youth Ensemble

The Collection of Christy Cornell-Pape > Programs > Chopin and Schubert — Isadora Duncan — Jul 29, 1908

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

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Isadora Duncan — 1908

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Isadora Duncan Dancers — Nov 15, 1929

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

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 > Retrospective Isadora Duncan — 1993

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Programs > Summer Flight Program — Jul 22, 1983

The Isadora Duncan Archive Collection > Programs > Isadora Duncan in the 21st Century — Jan 20, 2017

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