Schubert — Waltz, D. 365, No. 15 (Three Graces)

Reconstructed versions by Hortense Kooluris and Riva Hoffman.


Sylvia Gold

Reference: Gold, Sylvia. A Selection of Isadora Duncan Dances: The Schubert Selection. Newport Beach, CA: Sutton Movement Writing Press, 1984.

There is a mystery in the faces of these three dancers before they turn into their joyous circle and climax with a burst of energy. This is probably the most well known of the Schubert dances.

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.

Three Graces begins with a pictorial image evocative of the famous painting of The Three Graces with the trio of young girls facing front with their arms entwined around one another. The trio gently bourrée downstage on half toe with sweet smiles of innocence and chaste restraint. In contrast to the open, thrusting pelvis in Duncan's later Brahms Waltzes and the erotic sensuality of Botticelli's nymphs, the pelvis and hips in the Three Graces are constrained and centered over the arches of the feet, furthering the virginal countenance of Isadora's nymphs. Arriving at the foot of the stage, the trio separates, spins, and glides playfully before beckoning one another to run lightly upstage to reassemble again into the entwined configuration. For a moment they stand sweetly poised as if in a Renaissance painting, and then slowly and delicately repeat the small advancing steps.

The Three Graces in my opinion, is not a fully realized vision of Botticelli's painting and in that regard, not a fully realized piece of choreography. Isadora had not yet acquired the depth of musical or choreographic sophistication to capture the sensuality and profundity of Botticelli's vision. The dancing figures render Botticelli's images not as part Aphrodite but rather as part idealized, chaste young women and part adolescent, not quite ripened unto their power.

Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck

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

This is a widely known but little understood study in perspective. The form, emphasized by repetition, is a daring example of an abbreviated phrase repeated to complete a longer conceptual statement. It is of peripheral interest to note that inspiration for this piece was sparked by Duncan's appreciation of Sandro Botticelli's Primavera, or by images described in Richard Wagner's notes on Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf dem Wartburg. In her autobiography My Life, Duncan chronicles her response to Wagner's widow, Cosima, who had asked her to dance the Bacchanale for the opera Tannhäuser: "I will come, and I will try to give at least an indication of the lovely, soft, voluptuous movements which I already see for the Three Graces" (Duncan, My Life, p. 142.). Planning her performance, Isadora wrote, "Those are the Three Graces embodying the calm, the languor of satisfied amorous sensuality. In the dream of Tannhäuser they are interlaced and separated and, joining themselves together, become alternately unified and parted" (Duncan, My Life, p. 145).

The dance, a choreographic phenomenon of classic simplicity, combines interesting spatial constructs with hidden skills and intricate music/dance relatedness. In its entirety, the dance is an illusion of time and distance—a vision of enduring perfection of form.

Three dancers, side by side and in close contact, face the audience. They begin from upstage center to move imperceptibly toward the audience, as though coming out of a distant past. They advance in absolute unity as one body. The two outside figures incline their heads toward the central figure; they seem to be whispering profound secrets.

After the first sixteen measures, the three suddenly burst into a lively circle dance, whirling in unison upstage along the sagittal center of the stage. With equal suddenness, they separate, running in different directions, only to reunite for a restatement of the dance.

Dicki Johnson Macy

The Three Graces are the three aspects of Aphrodite (1: JOY of the radiance that flows out to the world, 2: SPLENDOR, represents the energy returning to the deity, and 3: ABUNDANCE, unites the two.) and the rhythm of her energy going forth in the world, coming back, and then herself enclosing the two movements. The graces are her inflection as the moving powers of the energy of the world. The graces are naked because nakedness represents disengagement from the limitations of time and space.


Title Date Dancers Full Dance? Notes
Dance Visions NY Youth Company: Children's Repertory 2012 Yes Staged by Beth Jucovy
Hortense Kooluris Memorial Tribute 2007-08-01 No
DFI Cunningham 1980 Yes
Tribute to Isadora Duncan, Hortense Kooluris and Dancers at the World Trade Center 09/14/1987 Jeanne Bresciani, Beth Jucovy, Adrienne Ramm Yes
Isadora Duncan Repertory Dance Company performs Three Graces Yes
Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company performs Three Graces Gemze de Lappe, Sylvia Gold, Hortense Kooluris Yes
The Enduring Essence, 1990 Gemze de Lappe, Sharon Arslanian, Anne Carey Yes

Related items in the Archives

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

The Collection of Pamela de Fina > Programs > United Nations Staff Day Performance — Isadora Duncan Dance Group — 1979

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > Isadora Duncan Dancers in Minneapolis — 1930

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, Human Rights Day — — 1975

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers Centennial — 1977

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S. F. Duncan Dancers, 8th Annual Concert — 1980

The Collection of Mignon Garland > Programs > S.F. Duncan Dancers, "Portraits of an Era" — 1986

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 > Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company — Oct 23, 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 > Homage to Isadora — Madeleine Lytton — 1984

The Collection of Janaea Rose Lyn (McAlee) > Programs > Irma Duncan — Isadora Duncan Dancers

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Artwork > Drawings of Duncan dance

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