Raymond Duncan (1874-1966) was an American dancer, artist, poet, craftsman, and
philosopher, and brother of dancer Isadora Duncan.
Born in San Francisco, the third of four children of Joseph Charles Duncan, a banker, and Mary Dora Gray, youngest daughter of Thomas Gray, a California senator (the other children were Elisabeth, Augustin, and Isadora), Raymond Duncan was drawn to the arts from an early age. In 1891, at the age of 17, he developed a theory of movement which he called
kinematics, "a remarkable synthesisof the movements of labor and of daily life." [Raymond Duncan Biographical Notes, ca. 1948. In the Raymond Duncan Collection, Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center.] He believed that the value of labor was the development of the worker, not production or earnings.
In 1898 he and his mother and siblings left America and worked for a time in
London, Berlin, Athens, and Paris. Duncan's theory of movement led him to work particularly closely with his sister Isadora, a noted dancer. Duncan became particularly fond of Greece; he and his Greek wife, Penelope, lived in a villaoutside Athens which was furnished in a historically accurate manner, with many of the furnishings handmade by Raymond, whose craftwork included ceramics, weaving, and carpentry. No one was permitted to enter the villa in modern dress, and they themselves dressed in classical Greek attire both at home and abroad (which caused some consternation in 1907 Berlin). ["WOULD LIVE LIKE ANCIENT GREEKS; Raymond Duncan and His Hellenic Wife Create a Sensation in Berlin." "New York Times", July 14, 1907, page C1.]
In 1909 Raymond and Penelope returned to the United States for a series of performances of classical Greek plays, touring
Philadelphia, Chicago, Kansas City, San Francisco, Portland, and other cities. The couple also gave lectures and classes on folk music, weaving, dancing, and Greek music. They then spent several months in the Pacific Northwestwith the KlamathIndians.
In 1911 Duncan and Penelope returned to Paris and founded a school, the Akademia, at 31 Rue de Seine, which offered free courses in their specialty areas of dance, arts, and crafts; they later opened a similar school in London. Both schools were based on the idea of the
Platonic Academyand both were "an open house for every new effort in theatre, literature, music and art." [Raymond Duncan Biographical Notes, ca. 1948. In the Raymond Duncan Collection, Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center.] Duncan's ultimate goal was nothing less than a "complete technique of living" which, by synthesizing work, the arts, and physical movement, would result in the further development of man.
In addition to his artistic and creative pursuits, Duncan found time to write poetry and plays, newspapers, and editorials expounding his philosophy of "actionalism." His books, which were printed on his own printing press using a typeface that he designed himself, include La Parole est dans le désert (1920), Poemes de parole torrentielle (1927), L'Amour à Paris (1932), and Etincelles de mon enclume (1957). Duncan's work on his printing press is featured in a documentary programme made by Orson Welles, "Around the World with Orson Welles: St.-Germain-des-Prés".
At the age of 73, he proposed creating the city of "New Paris York" at latitude 45N, longitude 36W (in the middle of the
Atlantic Ocean) as a symbol of cooperation and inter-cultural communication. ["Duncan's Utopian City Only a Drop in Ocean." "Washington Times-Herald", 14 Feb 1948.]
In 1955 Orson Welles conducted an interview with Raymond Duncan in his academy in the television documentary St.Germain des Pres.This documentary was part of the British TV series "Around the World With Orson Welles" [ [http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0166085/maindetails Around the World With Orson Welles on IMDB] ]
* [http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/d/duncan_r.htm Raymond Duncan Collection at Syracuse University]
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