Isadora Duncan is possibly one of the greatest dancers of all time, and yet her name is unknown to many (especially in the US). Perhaps this is because dance is an art of motion, and almost no film exists of Duncan actually dancing—only photographs, paintings, sculptures, her writings, biographies, and the personal accounts of those that saw her dance. In Isadora Duncan: a graphic biography, artist Sabrina Jones takes all of these sources and attempts to create a living, breathing portrait of the woman and her art using comics. This seems only appropriate, given that the nature of comics is to take static images and breathe life (and the illusion of motion) into them.
Jones’ curvy, flowing ink brush style suits the nature of the story well; her art does a good job of conveying Duncan’s free and loose style of dance. Duncan chafed against the stiffness of “traditional” dancing like ballet, and so this book eschews panel borders for the most part. However, that does not stop the book from being divided into chapters, nor from each page following a rough 2×3 panel configuration.
The dancing and art style might be flowing, but the same cannot be said for the pacing of the book, which jumps from place to place and from event to event in Duncan’s life. The transitions are rough, and not always clear, making it hard to distinguish where Isadora is at a given point in her life, or how much time has passed. While the beginning of the book seems to delineate the early periods of Isadora’s life with some clarity, her later years go by in a blur, with Duncan reaching middle-age fairly quickly. Maybe this is intentional; a reflection of the path of Isadora’s real life, touring through Europe and the United States, meeting new lovers, starting schools, and spending all her money, only to end up touring again in order to stay afloat.
Regardless of these narrative issues, Isadora Duncan’s story is fascinating, and she espoused many ideas which, though accepted today, were rather scandalous at the time, making her story rather revolutionary.