The Isadora and Raymond Duncan Dance Research Center (DDRC) is a historic place in the municipality of Byron, part of the metropolitan conglomerate of Athens. Ιt was founded by Isadora Duncan and her brother Raymond in 1903. The Duncans studied classical Greek civilization and Raymond is said to have drawn inspiration for the building’s austere characteristics from Agamemnon’s Palace in Mycenae. The Duncan Center is associated with the history of modern dance due to the worldwide recognition of Isadora Duncan as the founder of modern dance.
Nowadays DDRC is also recast as an early bastion of self-sufficiency, frugal living, and the development of the self through practices of craftwork, humanitarian care, and fair share, notions with which Raymond Duncan, the driving force behind the initial idea of the Center, experimented throughout his life already in early 20th century. In an interview by Orson Welles in Paris in 1955, Raymond Duncan was advocating self-limits and human labor in conscious opposition to mass production. Probably influenced by utopian socialism, the cooperative movement, and the arts and crafts movement as part of a wider movement of intellectuals of his time and the 19th century in the US and in Europe, Raymond rejected industrial civilization and lived a life of frugality. Those principles resonate today as inspiration for rethinking contemporary living in view of the climate crisis and for actions to be taken.
The Duncan compound sits on the top of a hill chosen for its commanding view of the Acropolis and the Saronic gulf. During the past 120 years, the Duncan grounds of 16.000 m2 have been reduced to 1500 m2 and the direct view of the Acropolis is not possible anymore due to the rapid urbanization of the area surrounding the center as well the poorly planned construction boom that produced the city of today. Industrialization and urbanization in Athens took place primarily between the ‘60s and ‘90s, often in an unplanned manner and aiming for fast development and capital gains. As growth took place in leaps and bounds, there was hardly any time to reiterate what was happening and the environment was not part of the equation. In the municipality of Byron where the DDRC is located, a variation of the typical model of growth in the city of Athens was followed, based on incremental, and poorly planned residential construction. Nevertheless, the grounds and the building retain some of their original characteristics and the building itself is recognized as cultural heritage of architectural and historic significance. After the building was renovated in 1986 under the auspices of the Byron municipality, it was established as a contemporary dance center.
DDRC forms part of the European Dancehouse Νetwork (EDN), offering services to both the professional dance community, as well as the local community.