Growing up very poor, she started teaching dance at 6 years ald in order to make some extra cash.
She started dancing professionally in 1900 in Europe, starting in London's Lyceum Theatre. In her early professional years, she was inspired by Greek vase.
She toured with Loie Fuller across Europe, starting in 1902, studying natural movement, opposed to ballet's strict technique.
Her mission was to create beauty and educate the youth. As a result, she opened schools to teach women her dance philosophy. The first was established in 1904 in Grunewald, Germany. In 1914, she moved her school to New York.
She believed in restoring dance to a high art form, rather than merely entertainment, seeking the connection between emotion and movement.
She believed that all movement originated from the solar plexus (the sternum).