Episode 177: Loïe Fuller

Posted 25 May 2021 by

Loïe Fuller is often remembered as a dancer, but that hardly covers her contributions to the arts. Sure, she was a dancer, but also an actress, a chemist, an artist, and a pioneer in stage lighting and choreography. She was inquisitive and energetic, full of creativity and drive. She was the belle of Paris and the Art Nouveau movement, and she was an art agent of sorts who matched up her artist friends with her art buying ones…but she is best referred to as La Loïe, THE Loïe, one of a kind.

Are you having an “oh! Her?” moment looking at this? by Jules Cheret, wikicommons

Marie Louise Fuller was born on January 15, 1862, in Fullersburg, Illinois. She hit the stage early (at age two doing a “dramatic” recitation on a community stage) and spent a decade struggling as a working performer in the US, until she literally tripped upon the creation of a new act: The Serpentine Dance.

First gen costume…

 

…metamorphosized into this in just a few years. 1897 wikicommons

Surrounded by controlled, billowing, and undulating fabric and lit in a most colorful way with her own inventions, the average-looking woman transformed herself in the most magical of creations. When she got fed up with America, she headed to Europe, shaved a few years off her age, frenchified her name, and quickly established herself in the Parisian art world.

She loved still photography, but moving film? Not so much. Benjamin Falk, 1901 wikicommons

On the stage and in life, Loïe was in constant, creative motion: one moment a dancer, the next a chemist and inventor, the next a stage lighting and costuming pioneer…and always on the look-out for new tech and new artists to promote.

How Toulouse Lautrec was a mused by Loïe public domain

 

Loie’s life and business partner, Gabrielle (Gab) Bloch

Loïe died at the age of 65 on January 1, 1928. Her contributions to stage performance are still in use today, the art she was instrumental in placing in museums is still appreciated, and her stylized images are recognized around the world…but her name settled into the dust of history.

Not cool, History, not cool.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

Books!

 

This is the one that gave me the most joy, the story of the opening of the Maryhill Museum, by Steve Wiegand.

 

The only birth-to-death biography of Loïe’s life that I could find, very detailed by Richard Nelson Current and Marcia Ewing Current.

 

Her autobiography should be read with both a shaker of salt and the Currents’ biography nearby.

 

Biography with a focus on her art and LOTS of photographs written by a team from La Casa Encendida in Madrid

 

Excellent dance history of Loïe by, Ann Cooper Albright

 

Creative non-fiction about the friendship of Loïe and Marie Curie by Liz Heinecke

 

Audible exclusive, about an hour and more Edison than you get with our episode.

Web!

Loïe’s life can be looked at from so many angles, it’s an abstract of one of her illusions: stage lighting and design, costuming, dance, STEAM, feminism…and there is much written about Loïe through an LGBTQ lens, here is a starter set: A look at her life AND art from Queeratorial  (I learned a lot on this site, not only about Loïe ), her influence on contemporary flagging a type of dance in recent history in the LGBTQ community (I pray that’s not derogatory, please send me an email if it is) and a few more details of her life with Gab from San Francisco Bay Times (with an appearance by Alma!)

Since the work of this subject was so visual, here’s how it looked from the movie The Dancer choreographed by Jody Sperling and then Jody performing a reenactment of one of Loie’s dances to Clair de Lune:

You can learn more about Uncle Ben’s Balloon Frame farmhouse in Dupage County, here and more about Balloon Frame houses here.

Travel!

Of course, if you find yourself in Washington state between March 15 and November 15, you really should stop by the Maryhill Museum of Art. Report back, we would LOVE to go! #HistoryChicksFieldTrip

Moving Pictures!

Obsessed with Light, a documentary of Loïe’s life currently in production. To keep track of it you can follow their FACEBOOK PAGE or their lovely WEBSITE

There are no moving pictures of Loïe. I know you might say, “But I Googled! Here are some!” Nope, those are imitators, and some do bear a physical resemblance to her and a knock-off resemblance to her dances. Loïe loved still photography, capturing one moment in time, but to see her move you had to pay the price of a ticket. However, there is a cinematic movie that gives you a peek at her dances and why they captivated audiences. It has A LOT of historical inaccuracies, be forewarned, but it is visually stunning.

 

2016 movie: What it lacks in historical inaccuracies it more than makes up for in visual entertainment.

Miscellaneous!

Loïe lives on and still inspires long after her death…and most people don’t even realize it! (Choreographed by Jody Sperling)

As of this writing, there are a couple of last-minute openings to join us as we tour London, and there are unlimited (ish) openings to join us for our Locals’ Meet-up Dinner Thames River Cruise! For details and to register, visit Like Minds Travel. We hope to meet you there!

 Break music: Spinning Daydreams by Alan Marshand; End Music: Dance Forever by Kyren used with permission from IlicenseMusic