Isadora Duncan, born on May 26, 1877 in San Francisco, California, was a founder of modern dance. Her style emphasizes natural movement and flow. Her main source of inspiration was ancient Greece.

After her father left the family, Isadora’s mother Dora moved the family to Oakland. There is little record that can be easily accessed of Isadora’s early years in Oakland. However, it is known that she got her start as an artist in Oakland. During her childhood, Isadora attended public school, and she was also taught by the poet Ina Coolbrith. She dropped out of school at the age of 10 with her older sister to become a dance teacher. She ridiculed ballet as “affected grace and toe walking” (“Isadora Duncan”).

After childhood, she left California and spent the rest of her life in the Midwest, on the East Coast, and in Europe teaching herself and others how to dance.

Isadora first danced in Chicago and New York City, but the people there didn’t like her style and rejected her way of dancing. There was no easily accessible or discoverable record of Isadora dancing in Oakland, California specifically since her recorded performances took place in Europe and on the East Coast. After her style of dancing was shunned in New York City, she left for Europe at age 22 and danced in the parlors of the wealthy until she was able to afford her own studio. Her next performance in the Bay Area was in 1917 in San Francisco.


  • First Unitarian Church of Oakland: 685 14th Street, Oakland, CA 94612 – By 10, Isadora Duncan had dropped out of school and was giving dance lessons. She had her first dance performance at the First Unitarian Church at 14. At the time it was right next to downtown Oakland and located in a well-off neighborhood.
  • Henry House: 468-482 9th Street, Oakland, CA 94607 – After her husband had left the family, Isadora’s mother brought the family to Oakland where they moved into the historic Henry House. The Henry House was described as friendly for families and transients. It was a nice boarding house, and, while there, Isadora helped her mother earn money by giving dance lessons.
  • Cole Grammar School: 1011 Union Street, Oakland, CA 94607 – When Isadora’s family moved to Oakland, the kids were enrolled at Cole Grammar School. Due to a lack of parental oversight and a dislike for the restrictive nature of school, Isadora dropped out when she was 10. The Cole Grammar School is currently known as Cole Elementary School.

~ by Siena Parrish ~

External Links:

“Isadora Duncan.”, Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation, – Easy overview of Isadora’s life – More in-depth look into Isadora’s life – A look into Isadora’s life in Oakland, California – Information on Isadora’s childhood home

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