Fuller, Loie (1862–1928) By Garelick, Rhonda
Loie Fuller was a founding figure of modern dance. After an early career in American vaudeville, she moved to Paris where she created a new genre that drew on popular cabaret motifs combined with free-flowing, more natural movements performed in bare feet and flowing robes, and—crucially—the incorporation of technology. Gaining acclaim for her incorporation of electric lights, mechanical stagecraft, and her oversized silk costumes—all her own design—she used her many patented inventions to transform herself on stage into whirling sculptures of colored light and floating fabric. Known as the electricity fairy, Fuller was extremely popular with audiences, was often considered as a kind of magician, and became one of the most famous Americans in Europe. Midway through her career Fuller assembled a troupe of young dancers—Les Ballets Loie Fuller—who toured the world performing with her. In her later years she experimented with cinema, becoming one of the first women filmmakers in the world. Prominent artists and writers such as Auguste Rodin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Stéphane Mallarmé were particularly interested in Fuller, and used her as a subject for their sculpture, painting, and poetry. She was also a popular subject for early photographers. Her fame was so great, and the French embraced her so thoroughly, that at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, she was the sole performer to be granted her own theater, designed for her by esteemed Art Nouveau architect, Henri Sauvage.