Loie Fuller & The Serpentine Dance


The Lumière Brothers get the glory for this 1896 film capturing a performance of Loïe Fuller’s “Serpentine Dance” because they shot and then individually hand-tinted each frame. But they were just trying to recreate the phantasmagoric experience of watching Fuller in action. The Chicago-born dancer swirled around the stage like an Art Nouveau motif come to life wearing flowing white silk robes onto which colorful lights were projected.

Fuller was one badass babe—a bohemian precursor to Isadora Duncan who held numerous patents for the compounds (color gels and chemical salts) she developed for the stage lighting effects that illuminated her moves. She started out in vaudeville and burlesque, and in 1891 she went on tour with a melodrama called “Quack MD,” [HA] playing a character who performed a skirt dance while under hypnosis. [Those amazing details are from this University of Pittsburgh paper.] She skedaddled to Paris, where she mesmerized audiences and infiltrated the elite creative class. She became a member of the French Astronomical Society, and a friend to Marie Curie, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and countless other French artists, scientists and intellectuals.

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