Project Description

Sergei Yesenin and Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan and Sergei Yesenin had a brief, intense and highly unusual relationship which started in the fall of 1921 in the artistic studio of their mutual friend, painter Alexei Yakovlev. The famous dancer was enchanted by the young poet and even though they didn’t even speak the same language, the two ended up in the affair that kept people intrigued even until this very day. Isadora Duncan was born in San Francisco and started dancing at the young age. She rejected the rigidity of standardized dances by using natural rhythms and movements which lead to creation of a new form of free dance, highly extravagant and modern for that time, influenced by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Even though she was considered a celebrity in Europe, Isadora grew tired of European bourgeoisie. Luckily enough, Vladimir Lenin was a fan of her artistic expression and invited her to come to Moscow to open a dance school. Isadora accepted the adventure even though she barely knew any Russian. Isadora Duncan was 44 years old at the time, but that didn’t prevent her from seducing a 25 year old poet she encountered in a friend’s studio. Sergey Yesenin had a modest rural background, but even though he was born into a peasant family, he managed to move to the city and publish the poetry that will soon set ground for the movement called Imaginism. After his first two poetry books were published, blooming with lines full of dazzling images, yet familiar and simple, Yesenin became a celebrity himself. Yesenin’s attractiveness and romantic personality made him love-struck quite frequently so it was not a surprise that he gave into the romance with Isadora, 18 years his senior. Initially, Sergei Yesenin supported the Bolsheviks, but he soon he became disillusioned and began to criticize the government in his poetry, expressing the desire to leave. The Soviet government seconded his decision to leave Russia, so after they married in May 1922, Yesenin accompanied his wife on a year-long tour of Europe and the United States. Although the two lovers couldn’t really understand each other because of a big language barrier, they shared similar ideals about the revitalization of art. In a manifesto of his literary movement, Imaginism, Yesenin wrote, „ Words have become used up, like old coins; they have lost their primordial poetic power. We cannot create new words. Neologism and trans-sense language are nonsense. But we have found a means to revive dead words, expressing them in dazzling poetic images. This is what we Imaginists have created. We are the inventors of the new.” Even though the concept of Isadora’s free dance resonated with Yesenin’s vision of poetry, their shared artistic vision was not enough to keep their love growing. Their marriage was full of endless scandals, wrecked hotel rooms, alcohol and utter misunderstandings, which is nothing surprising considering the fact that they could not talk to each other. Yesenin, a handsome ladies’ man, ended the marriage as soon as they came back to Russia, continuing his new lifestyle of a drunken hooligan, as he often called himself. This fatal relationship was peculiar just like their deaths – according to the legend, Yesenin cut his wrist to write a farewell poem “Do svidanya” in his own blood; the following day hanged himself in the Hotel Anglettere, dying at the age of 30, in 1925. Popular believe is that the suicide was staged, and that the poet was in fact murdered by Soviet law enforcement agents who made it appear like a suicide. Isadora died on the night of September 14, 1927 in Nice, France, after a scarf she had around her neck got tangled around the wheels, throwing her from the open car, resulting with a broken neck. The love story of Isadora and Sergei, just like their tragic deaths, continues to intrigue our imagination even to this day.