Born Dora Angela Duncanon in San Francisco, California, she is considered the Mother of Modern Dance. Although never very popular in the United States, she entertained throughout Europe, and moved to Paris, France in 1900. There, she lived at the apartment hotel at no. 9, rue Delambre in Montparnasse in the midst of the growing artistic community gathered there. She told friends that in the summer she used to dance in the nearby Luxembourg Garden, the most popular park in Paris, when it opened at five in the morning. One of her lovers was the theatre designer, Gordon Craig; another was Paris Singer, one of the many sons of Isaac Singer the sewing machine magnate.
She flaunted traditional mores and morality, and her private life was subject to considerable scandal, especially following the tragic drowning of her children in the Seine River. However, Montparnasse's developing Bohemian environment did not suit her, and in 1909, she moved to two large apartments at 5 Rue Danton where she lived on the ground floor and used the first floor for her dance school. She danced ballet and gained a wide following that allowed her to set up a school to teach. She became so famous that she inspired artists and authors to create sculpture, jewelry, poetry, novels,photographs, watercolors, prints and paintings. When the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was built in 1913, her face was carved in the bas-relief by sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and painted in the murals by Maurice Denis.
She wore scarves which trailed behind her, and this caused her death in a freak accident in Nice, France. She was killed when her scarf caught in the wheel of her friend's Bugatti automobile. As the driver sped off, the long cloth wrapped around the vehicle's axle. Ms. Duncan was yanked violently from the car and dragged for several yards before the driver realized what had happened. She died almost instantly from a broken neck.
Her life story was made into a movie, Isadora, in 1968.
Isadora Duncan is buried with her two children in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.