Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Warning Free Spirit In Full Flight

The Urban Dictionary defines a free spirit as someone who is not restrained, as by convention or obligation; a nonconformist. defines it as a person with a highly individual or unique attitude, lifestyle, or imagination; nonconformist.  In every definition you read the word nonconformist comes up again and again.  What has this got to do with anything, I can see your eyebrows knitting together from here, well a great deal more than you might ever imagine.  What would you say if I told you that someone who has often been portrayed as quiet and unassuming was really a nonconformist "free spirit" in disguise?  It's a story with much to tell which makes some very important pieces of a puzzle fall into place further clarifying something that has been and doubtless will continue to be a mystery with all the twists and turns of an amusement park ride.

Any Pretty Thing That Came Into Her Head
The story begins with Isadora Duncan.  For those of you who don't know, I doubt there are many who don't, Isadora Duncan was a dancer, a teacher of dance, a philosopher, an artist and a bohemian.  She began teaching dance at the age of six using a method of incorporating fantasy into movement and teach "any pretty thing that came into her head."  Isadora went to Chicago where she auditioned for and was picked up by Template:Augustin Daly's Company.  With this company she traveled to New York where her ideas of dance clashed rather dramatically with the accepted norms of the time.  Ultimately she left the company moving to London in 1898.  She performed in drawing rooms taking her inspiration from scenes she found on Greek urns.  She was able to save enough to rent a studio which allowed her to expand her vision to a larger stage.   She went from London to Paris creating productions drawing her inspiration from the Louvre and the Great Exhibition of 1900. In 1902 she was visited by Loie Fuller and Fuller invited Duncan to tour Europe with her.  She did exactly that creating new works using her innovative dance technique.  Her style consisted of a focus on natural movement instead of the rigid controlled technique of ballet.  She danced bare footed and in a white Greek chiton.  Chitons are made of very sheer fabric and she was for all intents and purposes nude because she wore no foundation garments underneath as this would have inhibited her freedom of movement.

Way Outside The Box
Isadora Duncan was a revolutionary individual in so many different ways.  In both her professional and private lives, Duncan flouted traditional mores and morality. She was openly bisexual.  She believed in free love.  She had two children out of wedlock.  Her daughter Dierdre was fathered by theatre designer Gordon Craig and was born September 24 1906 and her son Patrick was fathered by Paris Singer and was born on May 1, 1910.  Both children died in an accident on the Seine River April 19, 1913.  After avoiding a collision with another vehicle the car had stalled.  The driver neglected to put on the parking brake and the car rolled across the Boulevard Bourdon down an embankment and into the Seine.  The two children as well as their nanny drowned.  During her recuperation she spent a great deal of time with Elenora Duse at the Viareggio seaside resort.  The fact that Duse was just out of a relationship with the rebellious young lesbian feminist Lina Poletti added fuel to speculation that there was a relationship between Duncan and Duse.  In fact the father's of both of her children can be tied to prominent lesbians of the era.  Gordon Craig's sister Edy lived in a menage a trois with Christabel Marshall and Clare "Tony" Atwood. They were referred to by Radcliffe Hall and her lover Una Troubridge as "the boys."  And Isaac Singer was the brother of Wineretta Singer who left a string of broken hearts across several continents.  Suffice it to say stories have placed Isadora in the bed of both Duse and Singer.  She lived so far outside the box of accepted Victorian normality that it was truly revolutionary.

Another Free Spirit is Born
Those of you who have read my blog for awhile know that my blog is generally about Agnes Moorehead.  Well darlings this one is no different and this is why.  We have all labored under the apparent misconception that Agnes was the family rebel with her acting and emoting and generally being the square peg in the round hole, not so much my sweets, not so much.  Charles Tranberg has made the statement that Agnes was an extrovert like her mother and Peggy was shy and retiring like her father.  It has made me scratch my head with wonder for years quite honestly because the whole idea of Peggy not living with her parents, spending the majority of her free time with her sister, and the apparent uproar that occurred before her death, at least with her mother, does not fit that shy or retiring pattern.  Lo and behold it seems that our Peggy was not the timid little quiet wallflower that we had been lead to believe she was.  Peggy had an idol.  An idol whose hose ideas and philosophies she apparently took quite seriously.  Her idol was non other than the grand mistress of modern dance Isadora Duncan.  So taken with Isadora's philosophy of dance was Peggy that she, allegedly, danced out side in the nude.  Now this comes from a reliable source to me and the source was told by someone who knew Mollie, Agnes, and obviously Peggy.  As far as I can tell Dr. George Perry the teller of the story lived in their neighborhood as a young man.  Since the girls spent time with their parents in the summer, a time that would lend itself to nude dancing in Wisconsin, he most likely witnessed it.  BOOOOMMMMM that is the sound of lots of illusions being shattered into a bazillion pieces.  We know that Agnes was a great fan of La Duse.  She named her dog after Eleanora.  It is obvious that both sisters were artistic in different ways.  And so many things make soooo much more sense if Peggy's free thinking nature is taken into consideration.  Isadora did not believe in marriage and if Peggy was attempting to incorporate Isadora's ideals into her life it is possible that she may have been living with the mystery man Frank.  What's more she may have potentially been pregnant.  It would explain the suicide.  It would explain Mollies self described crass behavior.  It seems that neither Moorehead girl was a paragon of virtue.  Agnes herself even said that years later.  I must add that this source knew Peggy had killed herself some forty years ago from the lips of the man, who by the way became a doctor, that had known them when they were younger.

This is, I hope, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  One that will shed light on this woman we all adore by shedding light on her life.  Neither of these ladies had any sense of fear.  They believed what they believed and did what they thought had to be done.  It makes me love Agnes all the more and so proud to share a genetic heritage with both of them.  Here's to you Peggy and your Free Spirited self !  Here's to you Agnes and your talent, determination and strength! In the words of those of us who tread the boards of the theatre  HUZZAH!!!

1 comment:

Big K said...

Hey Tamela are you doing okay? Haven't seen any posts from you in almost a month and you said you had an operation... Could you drop us Aggiephilles a note so we know you're okay? I hope you're okay!

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