Fuller, Loie

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Fuller, Loie

(lō`ē), 1862–1928, American dancer and theatrical innovator, b. Fullersburg, Ill., as Mary Louise Fuller. She began her career as a child, performing in burlesque, vaudeville, the circus, plays, and other popular entertainments. Self-taught as a dancer, Fuller explored the use of voluminous silken skirts, which, illuminated by the multicolored lighting she created, floated, flowed, and swirled in her famous "Serpentine Dance," first performed in New York in 1892. Later that year she traveled to Paris, where she and her dance productions became wildly successful. She was painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, sculpted by Rodin, exalted by Mallarmé and other writers, and dramatically portrayed in various art nouveau works. Remaining in Europe, Fuller became a successful artistic entrepeneur, forming her own school (1908) and founding a troupe that toured worldwide. She continued to experiment with lighting effects and other forms of stagecraft, and ultimately choreographed more than 100 dances.

Bibliography

See her autobiography, Fifteen Years of a Dancer's Life (1908, tr. 1913); biographies by S. R. Sommer and M. Harris (1989) and R. N. and M. E. Current (1997).

Fuller, (Marie Louise) Loie

(1862–1928) dancer, choreographer, stage lighting innovator; born in Fullersburg, Ill. She began to entertain in public as early as two and a half, and throughout her childhood she acted and toured. By 1883 she was acting on Broadway and by 1888 she was touring with her own company. It was in an 1891 play that she was expected to dance, and, wanting to make herself exotic, she took a skirt of Chinese silk and proceeded to flit about the stage while waving the material under the stage lighting. Seeing its effect on the audience, she worked up a solo routine that relied more on the special lighting and the billowy silk than on any particular dance steps. It made such a sensation in a New York show in 1892 that she took her "serpentine" dance to Europe that year; she would spend the rest of her life there, with only brief visits to the U.S.A. (She appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910.) Her main base was Paris, where she had first appeared at the Folies-Bergère in 1892 and where she was celebrated by artists and intellectuals. She toured with her company of young women—Isadora Duncan danced with her in 1902—and founded a dance school in Paris in 1902. Although essentially an entertainer, she was an innovator in stage lighting effects, being among the first to use luminous phosphorescent materials, to dance on glass lit from below, and to employ silhouette-and-shadow effects.
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Loie Fuller, nee Marie Louise Fuller, was born in the Chicago suburb of Fullersburg, now Hinsdale, Illinois, on January 15, 1862.