Isadora Duncan Dies in Car Accident, 1927

On September 14, 1927 in Nice, France, dancer Isadora Duncan died instantly when her large silk scarf got tangled in the wheel of her convertible sports car. She had leaned back in her seat to feel the sea breeze, and her scarf blew back and wound around the axle. It tightened around her neck and dragged her from the car and onto the cobblestone.

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Isadora Duncan. Photo by Arnold Genthe

Duncan was born in 1877 in San Francisco. She loved to dance and, as a teen, worked as a dance teacher. However, she was not a classically trained ballerina. As a free-spirit and bohemian, her dancing was improvisational and emotional. According to Duncan, her dances were choreographed, “to rediscover the beautiful, rhythmical motions of the human body.”

In her early twenties, Duncan moved to Europe to become a dancer, living as a bohemian and embracing feminism, Darwinism, and free love. Her dancing celebrated self-expression and liberation. She danced barefoot in her performances, wrapped in flowing scarves instead of tutus and ballet shoes.

Before her tragic death, she lived through heartbreak when her two small children were riding in a car which drove off a bridge and plunged into the Seine River.

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