Sylvia then enrolled in the studio of Isadora's sister, Elizabeth
Duncan, where she began her training with Elizabeth and Anita
Zahn, a teacher of the Duncan dance. Soon after, Irma Duncan
came to the United States and opened the "Isadora Duncan
Studios" at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The then seven
year old Sylvia was auditioned by Irma and her parents received
a note that had a profound effect on Sylvia's life. "Miss
Duncan is extremely anxious to have Sylvia return. She considers
her exceptionally talented."
Sylvia studied and performed with Irma for the next seven
years. In addition to many studio performances, there was also
a gala performance in 1934 at Madison Square Garden in which
Irma fulfilled a dream of Isadora's, choreographing a dance pageant
to the chorale movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The New
York Phiharmonic was conducted by Walter Damrosch who had often
performed with Isadora. Sylvia was one of Irma's students participating
in this unusual concert.
Irma Duncan left New York permanently in 1937 and this temporarily
diverted Sylvia's dance career. Sylvia entered the High School
of Music and Art, majoring in music and in 1944 received her
Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from New York University.
Through all the activities of marriage and motherhood, Sylvia
maintained her love of the Duncan Dance. During the post World
War II period, Duncan dancing was effectively eclipsed by the
modern dance movement, typified by Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey.
During this period, Sylvia studied various modern dance techniques
and later, in the 1960's and 1970's, turned to her early Duncan
training to teach in the Boston area.
Isadora had prophecized that her art would first die out but
would eventually be revived. In 1977, Sylvia began to commute
to New York City to work with Hortense Kooluris, Gemze de Lappe
and Julia Levien and the four of them, all students of Irma Duncan,
performed as soloists along with a company of younger dancers
in a complete program of Isadora Duncan choreography at Riverside
Church in New York. Earlier, Annabelle Gamson, Sylvia's sister-in-law,
who studied Duncan with Julia Levien, startled the dance world
by performing Duncan dances to an ecstatic audience and raving
reviews. Isadora's prophecy was true: 50 years after her death
her work was again popular.