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Loie Fuller | Modern Dance Pioneer

Loie Fuller, original name Marie Louise Fuller, (born Jan. 15, 1862, Fullersburg [now part of Hinsdale], Ill., U.S.- died Jan. 1, 1928, Paris, France), American dancer who achieved international distinction for her innovations in theatrical lighting, as well as for her invention of the "Serpentine Dance", a striking variation on the popular "skirt dances" of the day.
Fuller made her stage debut in Chicago at the age of four, and over the next quarter century she toured with stock companies, burlesque shows, vaudeville, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, gave temperance lectures and Shakespearean readings, and appeared in a variety of plays in Chicago and New York City.

Sculpture of modern dance pioneer Loie Fuller at Brookgreen Gardens SC

Loie Fuller (1862-1928)

A popular if not authenticated explanation of the origin of Fuller’s innovative dances claims that, while rehearsing Quack, M.D. (produced 1891), Fuller was inspired by the billowing folds of transparent China silk.
She began experimenting with varying lengths of silk and different coloured lighting and gradually evolved her "Serpentine Dance", which she first presented in New York in February 1892. Later in the year she traveled to Europe and in October opened at the Folies Bergère in her "Fire Dance", in which she danced on glass illuminated from below.
She quickly became the toast of avant-garde Paris. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Auguste Rodin and Jules Chéret used her as a subject, several writers dedicated works to her, and daring society women sought her out. She lived and worked mainly in Europe thereafter.

Loie Fuller (1862-1928)

Loie Fuller Danse Serpentine by the Lumiere Brothers, 1897

Loie Fuller Danse Serpentine by the Lumiere Brothers, 1897

Her later experiments in stage lighting, a field in which her influence was deeper and more lasting than in choreography, included the use of phosphorescent materials and silhouette techniques.
In 1908 Fuller published a memoir, Quinze ans de ma vie, to which writer and critic Anatole France contributed an introduction; it was published in English translation as Fifteen Years of a Dancer’s Life in 1913.
After World War I she danced infrequently, but from her school in Paris she sent out touring dance companies to all parts of Europe.
In 1926 she last visited the United States, in company with her friend Queen Marie of Romania.
Fuller’s final stage appearance was her "Shadow Ballet" in London in 1927. | © Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

This 1892 photograph shows Fuller costumed for her Serpentine Dance

Loie Fuller, Auguste Rodin and Gab Bloch | The New York Public Library

150 Years of Loïe Fuller, Modern Dance Pioneer

by Arlene Yu, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

150 years after her birth in Fullersburg, Illinois on January 15, 1862, Marie Louise "Loïe" Fuller is less well known than her peers. Yet her work, flowing and abstract and free from the constraints of classical ballet, predated and paved the way for more familiar modern dance pioneers like Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis.
On April 12, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Loïe Fuller's birth with a program by Jody Sperling, the Founder and Artistic Director of Time Lapse Dance, as well as a scholar and interpreter of Loïe Fuller's style. In conjunction with the program, we have put together a small exhibit of materials on Fuller from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. The exhibit is on the Library's third floor and will be available to view through June 2.
During her early career, Loïe Fuller worked in vaudeville, notably in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. She was more musical theatre actress than dancer, and made a gender-bending appearance as Aladdin in The Arabian Nights at the Standard Theatre in New York City in 1887. By the end of 1892, however, Fuller had become renowned as the inventor and performer of the Serpentine Dance.
Short, rather plump, and lacking in formal dance training, she developed her own natural movement and performance aesthetic, manipulating a billowing robe of white silk fabric into swirling and undulating forms under colored lights on a darkened stage.

In her insatiable curiosity (as well as her quest to stay ahead of her many imitators), Fuller consulted with Thomas Edison and Marie and Pierre Curie on developments in electric lighting, phosphorescent salts, and the possible use of radium on stage:
"I explained to Mr. Edison the idea of permeating a dress with these salts - and I left a large scarf with him to experiment upon. I never knew the results, because some years later - during another visit to N.Y., I found he had given up his laboratory. The results were so harmful to the men who worked with the acids and the x-ray. I had not done anything myself in the phosphorescence but I was still intensely interested.
I am always deluged with light, and I wanted to dance without any at all. That it was science never occurred to me".

Fuller would go on to great acclaim in performances in Paris at theatres such as the Folies-Bergère, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, the Théâtre des Arts and, at long last, the prestigious Paris Opera in 1920.
At the Exposition Universelle, the 1900 world fair in Paris, she even had her own eponymous theatre, designed by the Art Nouveau architect Henri Sauvage.

Fuller associated with and inspired many of the leading artists and thinkers of the era. She was friends with the sculptor Auguste Rodin, and inspired posters and paintings by the Post Impressionist artists Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
The Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé called her dancing the "theatrical form of poetry par excellence" and hailed Fuller as "an artist of intoxication and industrial achievement".

Rodin and the Nobel Prize winning writer Anatole France lauded her "instinctive" and "natural gifts", predicting that "her effects, lights, and 'mise-en-scène' are all things which will be studied".
For Fuller was not just a choreographer and dancer. She developed and patented set designs, costume designs, and stage lighting techniques, such as this mechanism for stage underlighting.
Fuller's experimentation with light extended beyond live performance to film. She produced a full length film, Le Lys de la Vie (The Lily of Life), based on a story by her friend Queen Marie of Romania. The film employed innovative special effects for the time, such as negative images and slow motion, to evoke the fairy tale nature of the narrative. | © The New York Public Library

Agathon Léonard (1841-1923) | La danza della sciarpa 1901-02 | Art Institute of Chicago

Loïe Fuller (1862-1928) è stata una ballerina e coreografa visionaria che creò un nuovo genere di performance, combinando i costumi fluttuanti con delle luci abbaglianti e proiezioni per evocare immagini trasformative di bellezza ipnotica.

Nata Marie Louise Fuller nel 1862 a Fullersburg, Illinois, ha intrapreso una prima carriera teatrale come attrice e cantante nel vaudeville, nelle società per azioni e nel burlesque prima di sviluppare lo stile di danza che l'ha resa famosa all'inizio degli anni '90 dell'Ottocento. Attraverso esperimenti con tendaggi di seta e luci colorate, ha sviluppato la sua prima "Danza Serpentina".
Successivamente, il genere divenne noto come "danza del serpente" e fu ampiamente imitato. Fuller è stata annunciata come una maga tecnologica per le sue numerose innovazioni scenografiche, che includevano: eliminare gli elementi scenici ed immergere il teatro nell'oscurità totale; imbrigliare un disco rotante di gel colorati per far brillare motivi multicolori sempre mutevoli sulle sue gonne vorticose; proiettare immagini (come fotografie della superficie lunare) sui suoi indumenti; illuminare il palcoscenico dal basso, come nella sua famosa Fire Dance per creare l'illusione di essere circondati dalle fiamme; e coreografando ombre e sagome.

Il debutto di Fuller nel 1892 al Folies Bergère di Parigi la catapultò in una celebrità internazionale. Le sue esibizioni hanno rapito artisti, poeti ed intellettuali fin de siècle.

È stata rappresentata da artisti in molti media ed è diventata influente in movimenti come Art Nouveau, Simbolismo, Cubismo e Futurismo.
La "Danza serpentina" della Fuller segnò l'origine della danza moderna.
Sebbene in seguito siano diventati rivali, Fuller ha aiutato la carriera della giovane Isadora Duncan.
Ruth St. Denis era un'ammiratrice di Fuller e coreografò opere in omaggio.
All'inizio del XX secolo, Fuller ha portato la danza all'avanguardia della modernità e la sua energia e ambizione l'hanno resa una delle donne americane più influenti della sua epoca. Fuller morì a Parigi, in Francia, il 2 gennaio 1928.

Left: Loie Fuller and her mother | Right:Gabrielle Bloch, also known as Gab Sorere, 1913

Oggi la Fuller viene ricordata anche per l’assoluta libertà con cui affrontò la sua vita personale.
Dopo essere stata brevemente sposata con un uomo, dal 1889-1892, decise di vivere apertamente da lesbica.
La storia più importante fu con Gabrielle Boch, sua ammiratrice e più giovane di sedici anni, conosciuta nel 1905.
Le due donne riuscirono a creare un circolo di donne artiste e lesbiche, a cui si unirono numerose esponenti di spicco della cultura francese di inizio Novecento.
Loïe e Gabrielle vissero insieme per ventitré anni, fino alla morte della Fuller.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec | The Wheel, Dancer Loie Fuller Seen from the Backstage, 1893 | Museu de Arte de São Paulo

Jean de Paleologue | Fuller at the Folies Bergere

Loïe Fuller (1862-1928)

Folies Bergere, La Loie Fuller | Jules Cheret, 1893 (detail)

Loïe Fuller (1862-1928)

Folies Bergere, La Loie Fuller | Jules Cheret, 1893