Sylvia Gold (Nee Rubinstein) was born in New York City in 1923, four years before Isadora met her tragic and dramatic death. Her parents had seen Isadora dance, and like many others, were very impressed. Sylvia loved to dance freely to music at a very young age. Her parents recognized her talents and at the age of five she was enrolled in the Denishawn School, taught by Ruth St. Denis. The emphasis was on the Eurhythmics method of Jacques Dalcroze.
Sylvia then enrolled in the studio of Isadora's sister, Elizabeth Duncan, where she began her training with Elizabeth and Anita Zahn, a teacher of the Duncan dance. Soon after, Irma Duncan came to the United States and opened the "Isadora Duncan Studios" at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The then seven year old Sylvia was auditioned by Irma and her parents received a note that had a profound effect on Sylvia's life. "Miss Duncan is extremely anxious to have Sylvia return. She considers her exceptionally talented." Sylvia studied and performed with Irma for the next seven years. In addition to many studio performances, there was also a gala performance in 1934 at Madison Square Garden in which Irma fulfilled a dream of Isadora's, choreographing a dance pageant to the chorale movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The New York Phiharmonic was conducted by Walter Damrosch who had often performed with Isadora. Sylvia was one of Irma's students participating in this unusual concert. Irma Duncan left New York permanently in 1937 and this temporarily diverted Sylvia's dance career. Sylvia entered the High School of Music and Art, majoring in music and in 1944 received her Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from New York University.
Through all the activities of marriage and motherhood, Sylvia maintained her love of the Duncan Dance. During this period, Sylvia studied various modern dance techniques and later, in the 1960's and 1970's, turned to her early Duncan training to teach in the Boston area.
In 1977, Sylvia began to commute to New York City to work with Hortense Kooluris, Gemze de Lappe and Julia Levien and the four of them, all students of Irma Duncan, performed as soloists along with a company of younger dancers in a complete program of Isadora Duncan choreography at Riverside Church in New York. Sylvia collaborated with Valerie Sutton on a book which shared the choreography of selected dances using the Sutton dance notation, including photos, music and other documentation and Sylvia was also one of the first to transfer older format videos for web sharing.
Hortense Kooluris 1914-2007
With the passing of Hortense Kooluris, Isadora Duncan dancers have lost the last surviving artist taught by the Duncan adopted heiresses, the so-called Isadorables. Born Hortense Dolan in1914 into a large family of talented musicians and painters, who were to inspire Christina Stead’s novel The People with the Dogs,Hortense was dancing almost as soon as she could walk. At age six she began training in New York with Elizabeth Duncan, Isadora’s sister. At 15 she was the youngest member of the Irma Duncan dancers, and performed with them from 1930 to 1933. when Irma retired. Among many other places, the company danced from Carnegie Hall to as far away as Havana. Their final performance in Madison Square Gardens was in a program for World Peace with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony played by the Philadelphia Symphony.
Hortense was a gentle spirit of extraordinary grace and charm. Her personal beauty was celebrated by a number of artists, including the photographer Arnold Genthe, the sculptor Mario Corbel and the painter Nathan Dolinsky; and in later life by her son, photographer Kirby Kooluris, photographer Claudine Laabs and by her daughter, portrait-artist Linda Kooluris Dobbs. In herself Hortense was modest, graceful and unstintingly generous and hospitable. Her sense of humor made her a delightful companion.
From 1933 the young dancer continued as a soloist and teacher, conducting master classes at schools, colleges and universities. She toured with Agnes DeMille’s American Heritage Theater production, “Conversations about the Dance” both on stage and in the PBS program, in which she danced with Gemze DeLappe and the Joffrey Ballet.
To augment her income, Hortense taught ballroom dancing in an Arthur Murray studio in New Jersey. It was there that she met her husband in 1943, Spyros George Kooluris ( September 14, 1914), owner of the successful Suburban restaurant next door. They settled some years later in the pleasant suburb of Short Hills, where Kirby and Linda, their two children, grew up. Married, Hortense remained dedicated to her children and her art, continuing to lecture and perform until she was 84, when an automobile accident put an end to her dancing days. Characteristically, at the time, she was taking classes in tap-dancing and ballet.
Sought after as an exponent and teacher of Duncan dance, she performed and taught in Tokyo, where she partnered the eminent Japanese dancer Kazua Ohno. She danced and lectured in Toronto and at the Sorbonne in Paris. In Athens she performed near the Acropolis , and at age 79 led an outdoor recital in front of the World Trade Center at Lincoln Square, New York. Many of the present-day Duncan stars were trained by Hortense.
With her Irma Duncan colleague, Julia Levien, she founded the Centenary Dance Company which gave its first performance in 1977 at the Riverside Theater, New York, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Isadora Duncan’s birth.
Julia Levien 1911-2006
Julia Levien (1911-2006) was the child of Russian, Jewish immigrant writers. They were steeped in culture: music, art, poetry and theater. Julia’s home was a place where Jewish artists and intellectuals gathered. Julia’s first Duncan dance teacher at the age of nine was from this circle of friends, Estelle Harreton who was a pupil of Maria Theresa. As a child Julia also studied some ballet with a cousin and the Dalcroze and Wigman technique with Bird Larson. These classes, like many from that period were very influenced by the Duncan aesthetic.
In 1925 Julia danced with Anna Duncan at Lewiston stadium. After Isadora died in 1927, Irma Duncan came to NY with her Russian troupe. Julia, along with Hortense Kooluris, were among ten dancers chosen to replace the Russian dancers. This group was called the American Isadora Duncan School and Company. Julia toured internationally with them in the 1930s and 1940s. She also performed solo Duncan concerts and presented her own choreography which reflected social concerns of the period.. In a 1943 NY times review, John Martin wrote “Ms. Levien danced the Duncan pieces in a totally different manner which is non-imitative, nontraditional and her own. She moves with great beauty and an apparently innate sense of dynamics.” In the 1950s she formed the Duncan Guild along with Hortense and Gemze DeLappe. The Duncan Technique and aesthetic was at the heart of her many years of teaching and coaching that coincided and followed. Julia married and moved to Far Rockaway, where she raised her son, Elliot. She continued to teach and perform. In 1977 Julia, along with Hortense Kooluris, formed Isadora Duncan Centenary Dance Co marking the 100th anniversary of Isadora’s birth. The commemorative company trained dancers around the world. Julia was also a well-regarded visual artist. Her Duncan Dance drawings and sculptures have been on exhibit and her drawings are included in her books “Duncan dance- a Guide for Young People” (Princeton Press, 1994)
“When Julia Levien taught the Duncan technique, she wove together classroom exercises with a running commentary on the arts and social issues as well as the major influences that helped to shape Duncan’s philosophy of movement”, (Jennifer Dunning, NY Times) Ms. Levien’s reconstructions and teaching demonstrated that Duncan’s simple-looking movement demanded technical virtuosity as the energy surged and flowed through the body”.
Ms. Levien continued to coach, lecture, sculpt and draw until her passing in 2006 at the age of 94.