A Lesson in Confidence: Sara Mearns in ‘Dances of Isadora’

words and illustrations by Annie Coggan

Sara Mearns performed “Dances of Isadora — A Solo Tribute,” on Tuesday, October 2, 2018. This jewel in the midst of the Fall for Dance programming at City Center made for a brilliant reprieve from muggy New York City and the heart-wrenching Kavanaugh hearings.

Mearns and pianist Cameron Grant composed a crystalline atmosphere; Chopin, Brahms, and Liszt were played expertly and with gravitas. Mearns was robed in an expertly-crafted, pink, Grecian tunic a la Isadora Duncan, along with deadly-simple props and accoutrements: a flower crown, a brooding velvet robe, a precise red scarf.

Historical accuracy is oddly what came to my mind during the thirty-minute solo, which brought the audience back to a time when a woman moving through the air, sculpting shapes with her body, was a revelation: no tricks, just deliberate use of body weight and perfectly paired music. There was no artifice in Mearns’ performance; the movement seemed invented by her, just as the movement must have looked on Isadora back then. I even allowed myself to daydream about the magnificent confidence that a woman like Isadora, and now Mearns, must have to move through the world. It felt like a lesson for our age.

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