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Loïe Fuller in 1900.

Loie Fuller (also Loïe Fuller; (January 15, 1862 – January 1, 1928) was a pioneer of both modern dance and theatrical lighting techniques.



Born Marie Louise Fuller in the Chicago suburb of Fullersburg, now Hinsdale, Illinois, Fuller began her theatrical career as a professional child actress and later choreographed and performed dances in burlesque (as a skirt dancer), vaudeville, and circus shows. An early free dance practitioner, Fuller developed her own natural movement and improvisation techniques. Fuller combined her choreography with silk costumes illuminated by multi-coloured lighting of her own design.

Although Fuller became famous in America through works such as Serpentine Dance (1891), she felt that she was not taken seriously by the public who still thought of her as an actress. Her warm reception in Paris during a European tour persuaded Fuller to remain in France and continue her work. A regular performer at the Folies Bergère with works such as Fire Dance, Fuller became the embodiment of the Art Nouveau movement. Her Serpentine Dance was filmed in 1896 by the pioneering film-makers Auguste and Louis Lumière.

Portrait of Loïe Fuller, by Frederick Glasier, 1902.
Loïe Fuller at the Folies Bergère, poster by PAL (Jean de Paléologue).

Fuller's pioneering work attracted the attention, respect, and friendship of many French artists and scientists, including Jules Chéret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, François-Raoul Larche, Henri-Pierre Roché, Auguste Rodin, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Marie Curie. Fuller held many patents related to stage lighting including chemical compounds for creating color gel and the use of chemical salts for luminescent lighting and garments (stage costumes US Patent 518347). Fuller was also a member of the French Astronomical Society.

Loie Fuller's original stage name was "Louie".In modern French "L'ouie" is the word for a sense of hearing. When Fuller reached Paris she gained a nickname which was a pun on "Louie"/"L'ouie". She was renamed "Loïe" - this nickname is a corruption of the early or Medieval French "L'oïe", a precursor to "L'ouie", which means "receptiveness" or "understanding".

Fuller is responsible for the European tours of the early modern dancers (she was the first American modern dancer to perform in Europe), introducing Isadora Duncan to Parisian audiences and developing the acceptance of modern dance as a serious art form. Her 'Chinese dancers' were the subject of the second section of W.B. Yeats' poem 'Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen'.

After the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, Fuller toured Europe with Sada Yacco and company, acting as manager and press agent for the Japanese performers [1].

Fuller formed a close friendship with Queen Marie of Romania; their extensive correspondence has been published. Fuller, through a connection at the U.S. embassy in Paris played a role in arranging a U.S. loan for Romania during World War I. Later, during the period when the future Carol II of Romania was alienated from the Romanian royal family and living in Paris with his mistress Magda Lupescu, she befriended them; they were unaware of her connection to Carol's mother Marie. Fuller initially advocated to Marie on behalf of the couple, but later schemed unsuccessfully with Marie to separate Carol from Lupescu.[2] With Queen Marie and American businessman Samuel Hill, Fuller helped found the Maryhill Museum of Art in rural Washington State, which has permanent exhibits about her career.

Fuller occasionally returned to America to stage performances by her students, the "Fullerets" or Muses, but spent the end of her life in Paris where she died of breast cancer on New Years Day 1928, aged 65. Cremated, her ashes are interred in the columbarium at Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris.

Continuing influence

Fuller depicted by Koloman Moser (1901).
Fuller painted by Toulouse-Lautrec.

Fuller’s work has been experiencing a resurgence of professional and public interest. Sally R. Sommer has written extensively about Fuller’s life and times[3] Marcia and Richard Current published a biography entitled Loie Fuller, Goddess of Light in 1997.[4] And Giovanni Lista compiled a 680-page book of Fuller-inspired art work and texts in Loïe Fuller, Danseuse de la Belle Epoque, 1994.[5]

Fuller continues to be an influence on contemporary choreographers. Among these are Jody Sperling who re-imagines Fuller’s genre from a contemporary perspective.[1]

Written works

Poster featuring Loïe Fuller at the Folies Bergères by Jules Chéret.

Fuller's autobiographical memoire "Quinze ans de ma vie" was written in French and published by F. Juven (Paris) in 1908 with an introduction by Anatole France. She drafted her memoires again in English a few years later, which were published under the title "Fifteen Years of a Dancer's Life" by H. Jenkins (London) in 1913. The New York Public Library Jerome Robbins Dance Collection holds the nearly complete manuscript to the English edition and materials related to the French edition.[6]

External links


  1. ^ Garelick, Rhonda K. Electric Salome: Loie Fuller's Performance of Modernism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007
  2. ^ Easterman, A.L., King Carol, Hitler, and Lupescu, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. (1942), p. 28–32, 58–61.
  3. ^ Loie Fuller: From the Theater of Popular Entertainment to the Parisian Avant-Garde. Dissertation. New York, Department of Drama New York University, 1979.
  4. ^ Richard Nelson Current and Marcia Ewing Current, Loie Fuller: Goddess of Light, Northeastern Univ Press, May 1997, ISBN 1555533094.
  5. ^ Giovanni Lista, Loïe Fuller, danseuse de la Belle Epoque, Hermann (Paris, 2006), ISBN 2-7056-6625-7 (in French).
  6. ^ The New York Public Library, Register of the Loie Fuller Papers, 1892-1913, descriptive summary

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