Chopin — Etude in G flat major, Op. 25, No. 9 "Butterfly"

The Harp is sometimes referred to as "Ondine" or "Aeolian Harp". The movement has a quivering, vibratory quality
which shifts subtly to become a continuous flow of gestures which emanate from the midline of the body to the peripheral in ongoing rays. The articulation of the hands is a focal point which serves to gradually and mysteriously emanate the sense of lightness and ephemerality. Costuming often includes a large silk scarf which variously wraps the torso across the chest from wrist to wrist or across the back evoking images of wings.

This reconstruction and transmission of this work has been attributed to Duncan's original six students and exists as a unique choreography.


Nadia Chilkovsky Nahumck

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

This dance is truly a triumph of the imagination. It is a breathtakingly fast, light bit of ephemera, unequaled in the Duncan repertoire. Students have added the evocative term Butterfly to the title.

The dance begins and ends nearly in the blink of an eye. It is ingeniously designed to create the impression of aimless flitting, pausing and fluttering. The dancer is like a will-o'-the-wisp floating on the gossamer wings of a silk scarf.

In measures 9-14 and 37-44 there is a curious motion of the head which resembles a bird's tucking its head under its wing. This strange motif was especially clear when Anna Duncan performed the dance in 1929 and taught the dance to a class [I] attended.

Valerie Durham

This bright and cheerful dance is performed very fast and light, using the gathering motion of the legs with quick presses from one side to another as the dancer comes forward through the center, and then returns through the center upstage. Spiraling circles side to side and a shimmering vibrational press to the side, then skips in a wide circle with an unexpected ducking of the head climaxes in a huge expressive press to the downstage corner and then unwinds in a series of diagonal spiraling turns. At the end the mood changes, and the speed diminishes slightly as the spritely figure gives in to fatigue and ends in a gesture of yielding and vulnerability.

This dance is performed with a scarf hanging like wings from the back to the fingertips, and is often performed in tandem with "Harp Etude," Chopin Etude Op. 25 No. 1. It has also been attributed to Lisa Duncan as the choreographer.


Title Date Dancers Full Dance? Notes
Dances by Isadora: Butterfly 2010 Chriselle Tidrick Yes
Isadora Duncan Dance Group: Butterfly Etude 2003-09-06 Students of Manami Asano's Pal Ballet School, Ichihara, Japan Yes Staged as quartet by Barbara Kane
Isadora and the American Jewish Intelligentsia 2000 Beth Jucovy Yes
Duncan Dancers in Mignon Garland's Studio Class August 1990 1990-08-10 No Students of Mignon Garland practicing in class
Isadora Duncan's 110th Birthday Celebration 1987 Adrienne Ramm Yes
DFI Cunningham 1980 Yes
One Foot on the Earth, One Eye on a Star 1978-9-14 Adrienne Ramm Yes
Hortense Kooluris Collection 1978 Yes

Related items in the Archives

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

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

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

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

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Company — Jun 24, 1978

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Riverside Dance Festival — Isadora Duncan Commemorative Dance Company — Jan 24, 1979

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

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Programs > Isadora Duncan Dance Group Gala Ball — Barbara Kane — Isadora Duncan Dance Group — Sep 27, 1996

The Collection of Francoise Rageau > Programs > Odile Pyros Program — Jun 16, 1986

The Isadora Duncan Archive Collection > Programs > Maria Theresa Program — Isadora Duncan International Institute — Nov 17, 1981

The Collection of Barbara Kane > Artwork > Four drawings of Isadora in the Butterfly Etude

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