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What is There Left?

April 1915 — Century Opera House, New York City


What is there left in America [for creative people] but the ships to take them to lands where their efforts are appreciated?

There are people here tonight that have paid as much as $100,000 for a painting by some Old Master of Europe. The cost of one of those paintings would support my school for a long time. I suppose that twenty-five years after I am dead they will come along and build an immense theater, just about as ugly as this one, and try to start the work that I am doing now. They will build the theater, but when they try to imitate me they will not know how to begin. They may get the same beautiful pictures, the same graceful movement of the limbs, the arms and the head, but the feeling will not be there. 

These beautiful children you have seen tonight are doing things that have not been done for 2,000 years. And remember, they are at what they call the awkward age, fifteen and sixteen. They are at the age when most people would dress them in corsets, high-heeled shoes, and send them out to tango. If they made the same movements tonight that are made in the average modern dance, you would all run out of the building. 

My work is appreciated by those people in the gallery because only the poor people in this country are intelligent. Do you suppose someone is going to help me stay here? I want to build up my school in America. I want fifty boys and fifty girls to train and to teach them the love of things beautiful.

Isn’t there someone in America to help me do this? I could build up a school for about one quarter of what this hideous theater cost. Only the rich people here can make it possible for me. But the rich people of America are so criminally unintelligent that it seems there is nothing left for me but to take the ship and emigrate.



Source: Isadora Speaks, by Isadora Duncan, ed. Franklin Rosemont (San Francisco: City Lights Books), 1981, pp. 39-40.