April 2018

by DeeGee Lester, Director of Education, The Parthenon

Thanks to the early 20th century revolutionary expression and stylistic innovations by Isadora Duncan, “The Mother of Modern Dance,” any location can be envisioned as the perfect backdrop to a dance performance. For dancers, the sight of the Nashville Parthenon has long evoked images of Duncan performing at the beloved ancient temple.

On the weekend of April 27–29, Metro Dance Department, MTSU Dance, and the Parthenon collaborate to bring the ghost of Isadora’s artistry to Centennial Park through dance performances, lectures, and workshops.

Isadora Duncan dancers run underneath silk scarves; Photograph by Sheila Fox

In the early 20th century, as women stepped forward to demand the vote and free themselves from societal traditions and expectations, Duncan emerged, shocking the world with a new, emotional art form. Inspired by Greek myth and architecture; reflecting the fluidity of classical Greek sculpture, the motion of wind in the trees or incoming waves, and the natural forces of gravity upon the body, Duncan removed the restrictive pointe shoes and costuming and unleashed the rhythmic spirit of the dancer.

The April program is the brainchild of Kathryn Wilkening, Metro Dance Director, and Meg Brooker, an Assistant Professor of Dance at MTSU.

“I fell in love with Duncan’s work and legacy when I was studying and living in New York. The 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center where I worked had an Isadora program for youth, and I was inspired by the passion, maturity, and depth I saw in these young dancers,” says Wilkening. “When I moved back to Nashville to work for the Metro Parks Dance Division, my first thought as I drove into Centennial Park and the Parthenon loomed before me was, we must have some Isadora Duncan dance at the Parthenon!

While attending an MTSU Faculty Dance Concert, Wilkening was thrilled to meet Meg, whose Isadora Duncan performances have graced national and international venues. That initial collaboration expanded to include the Centennial Art Center, New Dialect contemporary dance company, Duncan Dance Project, Centennial Youth Ballet, and Kidsville in planning a weekend dedicated to exploring the fascinating work and life of Duncan through a variety of lenses.

Activities on Friday, April 27, include a Master Class in technique for dancers with New Dialect contemporary dance company at abrasiveMedia in Houston Station; a lunchtime film series at the Centennial Black Box Theater; and concludes with a courtyard evening performance at Centennial Art Center featuring Brooker, the music of Chopin, and the costumes and performance of Centennial Youth Ballet and MTSU instructor Jennifer McNamara.

Isadora Duncan dance students directed by Meg Brooker; Photograph by John Clark

Saturday, April 28, features children’s activities at Kidsville in the Parthenon and a community dance workshop on how the Greek architecture and myth inspired the aesthetics of Duncan.

The weekend culminates with the Sunday performance—outside and inside the Parthenon—bringing together dancers from the Duncan Dance Project, Centennial Youth Ballet, MTSU, and the Barfield School of Dance.

“Everyone has a right to express themselves,” Brooker says. The weekend is a beautiful introduction and reinforcement of Isadora Duncan’s artistry. “We invite everyone to joyful movement!”

For additional information or to register for master classes, go to www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Cultural- Arts/Dance.aspx.

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