Books Culture

Isadora | Graphic Novel Review

By Vittoria Zerbini

★ ★ ★

Isadora, written by Julie Birmant and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, is a graphic novel depicting the life and scandals of the ‘Mother of Modern Dance’ Isadora Duncan (published by SelfMadeHero, paperback, 144 pages).

Isadora was born in America and by the age of 22 she became an acclaimed dancer throughout Europe. Her fame was due to the visceral, free-flowing and passionate movements of her dancing style. She used to perform barefoot, changing the dynamics of classical ballet and enchanting high society. Her career really took off once she disembarked in Europe. There she travelled immensely accompanied by her family: London, Paris, Berlin. It did not matter which city she went to, Isadora and her brother Raymond always managed to make friends with the most influential and well-known people of the time. These connections helped Isadora to perform on respected stages. For instance, her acquaintance with sculptor Auguste Rodin perfected her dancing movements, while her friendship with fellow dancer Loie Fuller gave her the opportunity to perform as a soloist in front of an important audience for the first time in her life.

Thanks to this graphic novel, we clearly understand that what inspired Isadora’s dance the most was ancient Greece and its statues. However, it feels like the only thing the graphic novel truly explains about Duncan is her passion for ancient Greece. The rest of her life is narrated as if Birmant took the most important highlights from Isadora’s life and threw them in the pages of the book with no context whatsoever. For this reason, it is hard to understand what is happening or the reasons behind the choices the characters take. This leads to confusion and ambiguity regarding the identity of new characters or even the settings where the story is taking place.

If the storytelling could have been improved, the illustrations were magnificent. Oubrerie put much effort in each panel. Every city or hotel we are shown are so well drawn that you wish you were there with Isadora and her family and friends. A good intuition on Oubrerie’s part was to make the gutters black during events taking place during the night or in dark places, helping the reader to identify even more with the spaces and actions of the story. Furthermore, the several beautiful splashes and spreads present in the graphic novel add depth and emotions to Isadora’s character, more than the speech balloons ever did.

I believe that this graphic novel could be appreciated more by an audience who is already aware of who Isadora Duncan is and how she died, as that too was difficult to comprehend from the graphic novel and I had to Google it. Although I did not know who Isadora Duncan was, Birmant and (perhaps more) Oubrerie made sure that Isadora’s strength and passions and love are what stays with the reader once the book is over.

You can buy Isadora here: