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Movement & Metamorphosis – Danced VeilSculptures

Online version of the print article in the HALIMA magazine, 2/2015, p. 48-53, ISSN 0938-0620#Fog dance #Veil #Dance #Serpentine dance #Fuller Loie Fuller Veil Dance Serpentine Dance

Since 1990 the dance with veil is my passion.

During research on the origin of this dance I met the pioneer Loie Fuller, whose serpentine dance immediately enchanted me.

For the 150th birthday of Loie Fuller, 2012, I choreographed the Hommage to Loie Fuller and published the Technology DVD for Veil Dance.(13)

Loie Fuller:

Marie Louise Fuller was born in Chicago in 1862 and began her career as an actress, singer and dancer at burlesque and vaudeville theatres. In New York, 1892, she shows her serpentine dance for the first time, creating the first multimedia synthesis of light, movement and music. After a very successful tour through Europe, she moved to Paris at the end of 1892, where she danced at the Varieté-Theatre Folies Bergères until 1899. Her solo choreographies inspire artists and intellectuals alike.





Innovative, besides her self-designed and patented, oversized veil costume, is her use of coloured stage lighting effects and laterna-magica projections, as well as her natural, individual movement and improvisation technique, whereby she frees dance from the constraints of strict, stylized ballet technique and choreography.The ideals of classical-academic ballet: "celestial lightness" and "incorporeality" become "real" in Loie‘s dances nevertheless, but in a completely new and special way, for example in "Mirror Dance", in which the dancer seems to float between the mirror surfaces placed above and below her.

Her performances no longer focus on the dancer with artistically precise and codified ballet movements, but on emotional expressiveness, the aesthetics of light and the dance prop, a gigantic veil costume made of very thin white silk fabric, in whose whirling masses of fabric the dancer's body almost completely disappears.

Through flowing wave and circular movements of the arms, smooth upper body movements and many rotations and counter-turns of the body through space, Loie introduces the light silk fabric of her costume in spiral forms around her body and conjures three-dimensional abstract images:

"Clouds", "Fire", "Sky", "Butterfly", "Lotus" . . . "Fear", "Death", . . . "Mirrors", "Ultraviolet" . . . she named her dances.

"Affekte und Gefühle finden einen entsprechenden Ausdruck in Formen der Natur. Sei es das Flattern von Schmetterlingen, der Rhythmus von Feuer und Wasser und die Formen der Wolken, die durch einen ins abstrakte tendierenden gestalteten Tanz diese Empfindungen versinnbildlichen." (5)

The poet S. Mallarmé describes Loie Fuller‘s dance as "theatrical form of poetry par excellence". (12)

Artists, writers and poets of the time loved her dances with its flowing and curved lines, which completely corresponded to the formal language of Art Nouveau.

Loie‘s friends are the painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the sculptor Auguste Rodin and many other artists.





Her "veil dance" is a popular motif on many posters and sketches, as well as for sculptures and interior design around 1900.

Loie Fuller specifically uses and develops the achievements of her time:

A new body concept, the system of natural movement and expression culture of the playwright Delsarte has slowly established itself since 1860.

With open hair, in loose clothes and barefoot, Loie dances her free and natural movements, the impulse-givers of her "scenographies of light and textile", which devour the dancö’rper. (8)

"In reaction to the social, technical and aesthetic upheaval phase at the beginning of the 20th century, the dance concept changes from "technically disciplined execution of rules to the energetic expression of inner experiences." (6)

Für Loie and many of her contemporaries, nature is the source of their inspiration.

1899 the zoologist, philosopher and freethinker Ernst Heckel publishes his "Kunstformen der Natur" (Art forms of nature") for the first time, a table work of nature&unsthetics that influenced art at the beginning of the 20th century. The light bulb, first patented in 1841, was improved by Edison and went into series production at the end of the 19th century. We are constantly working on the development of new lighting sources.Loie experiments with a wide variety of light sources, with completely darkened neutral light sources and with light and shadow effects:

Sophisticated lighting techniques, coloured light, constructions made of mirrors and glass surfaces that direct light and projections in a targeted manner are the hallmarks of her new lighting concepts and make her the "magician of light".In their performances, a well thought-out lighting program replaces the painted picture.

"She dances on transparent windows that are illuminated from below. She dances between successive gauze curtains. She dances in the house of mirrors . . .(8)

Loie is a member of the Astronomische Gesellschaft and friends with many engineers and scientists, such as Edison, who explains the latest results in the field of artificial light, the astronomer Camille Flammarion, who investigates the effect of colours on organic life and the human psyche, and the physicist Marie Curie, who discovers the chemical elements polonium and radium as part of her research. In 1904 Loie introduces her new "Radium Dance", which becomes original through the use of fluorescent substances with which she painted her serpentine foodät. (11)



The costume of the serpentine dance is based on the tradition of "skirt dance", a dance in which the tänzerin elegantly moves her long, wide rock to the rhythm of the music and thereby "stages" her body.Skirt Dance is very popular in America and Europe at the end of the 19th century, especially in the burlesque and vaudeville theatres, where Loie also appears at the beginning of her career as a "skirt dancer".The photo above left shows Loie Fuller 1892 in one of her serpentine fare in a typical "skirt dance" pose.

The rock form is still clearly visible. The skirt sits above the hüfte, so much higher than the "Skirt-Dance" and is cut much wider and made of transparent, very light silk material. Loie&lsquo’s first serpentine dance was created in 1891 in connection with a theatre scene in which she is to play a young widow who is hypnotized.While searching for a suitable costume for this scene of loss of control, she discovers an Indian skirt made of white silk material in her collection.Out of necessity, she chooses this skirt because she can't afford any other costume.

But since the skirt is much too big for her, she has to hold it up with both arms when running.Loie writes in her biography that the viewers of the hypnotizing scene shout "It‘s a butterfly!" and "It‘s an orchid!" and she continues" . . . I obtained a spiral effect by holding my arms aloft while kept whirling, to right and then to left, and continued this movement until the spiral design was established. Head, hands and feet followed the evolutions of the body and the robe. . . . You have to see it and feel it. It is to complicated for realization in words.On the basis of this discovery, she develops her innovative dance costume, consisting of up to 450 m of silk fabric. (4)

The pattern of this dance costume patented in the USA in 1894 corresponds to that of an oversized skirt; a circle of several meters long, conical silk fabric strips, which is not fastened on the hips or under the chest, but with an aluminium ring like a crown on the head.

In order to be able to spread out and keep the immense masses of fabric (which in some of her costumes swing up to 3 m around her) in motion, Loie extended the arms of the dancer by means of aluminium or bamboo pieces that were invisible to the audience.

These "Magic Stääbe" are held with the händen and guided by the movement of the arms:





There are danced silk sculptures that metamorphose into ever new forms.Loie Fuller's performances are increasingly detailed in the elements of music, movement, light, colour and space.

Your veil food becomes a moving canvas for light effects and image projections, such as photographs of the moon or microscope images of cancer cells. The dance thus becomes a "moving image".In "Le Firmament" she projects stars, moon and clouds onto her costume and the abstract landscape in which she dances is projected onto a transparent gauze curtain in the foreground.

In other performances there are projections of burning houses, explosions, locomotives and more.

"From the film aesthetics of Loie it is only a short way to cinematography. But it wasn't until 1919 . . Fuller turns to the cinema".

Your first film "Le Lys de la vie" zählt am Cineasten zum "cinema pur". Among other things, it works with innovative time lapse and slow motion effects. (8)





1893 Loie patents her costumes, as well as her "device for creating illusion effects" for protection against imitators in France and Great Britain, 1894 then also in the USA.But there are still several women in Paris alone who perform serpentines in the style of Loie Fuller.

1908 Loie founds her own dance school in Paris and celebrates great successes with her ensemble worldwide. A team of engineers and technicians supports her in her increasingly sophisticated light choreographies.Until her death on January 1, 1928, she taught at her dance school, organized Touneen for her fellow dancers and encouraged them like Isadora Duncan.Your ideas are groundbreaking for the development of theatrical and cinematic lighting technology and for the development of modern dance.Despite her great influence, Loie Fuller was initially forgotten as a person. It was not until the end of the 20th century that interest in her and her work flared up again.





Today there are a lot of Videoclips"which compile or artistically process old film recordings of Loie Fuller, as well as newer performances, which are called Tribute to Loie Fuller have been and will be developed.The dancer and choreographer Jody Sperling is a wonderful example of very successful serpentine dance performances today.(9)

Dancing with serpentine food requires a good effort and regular training of the arm and upper muscles, as well as torsional strength.The lighter and the silk material of the costume is, the less effort is required to perform the turns and to paint "veil images" into the air.A very light material "stands" better in the air, but needs time and rest to unfold. With a little help, it is possible to keep the immense masses of material flowing freely without "knotting" and to always set the impulses that flow into the silk with exactly the right energy. According to my experience, serpentine dance with all its turns, wave, circle and spiral movements and its flow going out over the body can have a very meditative character, whereby associations to the rotational movements of the dervish dancers arise.In the oriental dance scene, a dance similar to serpentine dance with large, pleated veil wings on bamboos has been very popular for a few years: the dance with Isis wings.





© 2015 Claudina


Literature used:

1st Loie Fuller: Fifteen years of a dancers life, London 1913, p.18

2nd Patent US No. 518,347 Patented Apr. 17, 1894, M. L. Fuller, Garment for Dancer

3rd Erin Branningan: La Loie as Pre-Cinematic Performance, Octobre 2003

Sally Summer 4: Loie Fuller, The Drama Review, Vol. 19, No. 1, March 1975

5th Evelin Dahm: Without corset and pointe shoe: Loie Fuller and Isadora Duncan on the way to new dance forms, Master's thesis, 2006, p.9

6th Kerstin Andermann, Undine Eberlein (Ed.): Feelings as atmosphere: New Phänomenology and Philosophical Theory of Emotions, Berlin 2011, p. 148

7 Richard Nelson Current & Marcia Ewing Current: Loie Fuller, Goddness of Light, May 1997

8 Petra Bahr: Loie Fuller, border girl of danceäesthetic, in Magazine for Theology and üsthetik 2, 1999, p. 2-6

9th Jody Sparrow: Loie Fuller (1862-1928), Dance Heritage Coalition 2012

10. Playlist for the Serpentine Dance

11th Los Angeles Herald, Volume XXXI, Number 215, 1 May 1904, Loie Fuller Introduces New Radium Dance

12. Stephane Mallarme, Divagations, Les Fonds dans le ballet, Autre Etude de Danse, 1897, (p.179-182), p.180

13. Review / Review DVD Calligraveil

Photos: M. Obendorf and released recordings / © 2015 Claudina

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Copyright 2015 by Claudina.