Partner Gab Sorère
Maryhill Museum of Art, 35 Maryhill Museum Dr, Goldendale, WA 98620
Père Lachaise Cemetery, 16 Rue du Repos, 75020 Paris, Francia
Loie Fuller (also Loïe Fuller; January 15, 1862 – January 1, 1928) was an American actress and dancer who was a pioneer of both modern dance and theatrical lighting techniques. She counted Eileen Gray among her friends. James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Stéphane Mallarmé, Jean Lorrain, Auguste Rodin, and others repeatedfly sketched Loie Fuller. Considered the first modernist dancer, Fuller debuted at the Folies-Bergère in 1892 and became an instant sensation. She was notably queer, she surrounded herself with a bevy of beautiful young students, butterflies, who were always alternately stroking her hands and kissing her. In this harem her collaborator and romantic partner for 30 years, Gabrielle Bloch aka Gab Sorère, was an insect, a strange figure in a balck tailor-made suit who circulated aroung the bevy of brightly colored butterflies like some scarab of ancient Egypt.
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. In multiple shows she experimented with a long skirt, choreographing its movements and playing with the ways it could reflect light. By 1891, Fuller combined her choreography with silk costumes illuminated by multi-coloured lighting of her own design, and created the Serpentine Dance. After much difficulty finding someone willing to produce her work when she was primarily known as an actress, she was finally hired to perform her piece between acts of a comedy entitled Uncle Celestine, and received rave reviews.
Almost immediately, she was replaced by imitators (originally Minnie "Renwood" Bemis). In the hope of receiving serious artistic recognition that she was not getting in America, Fuller left for Europe in June 1892. Gabrielle Bloch first saw Loïe Fuller perform at her Paris debut in 1892, when her mother took her to the performance. By 1898, the two women were living together and the relationship caused controversy, not only because they were openly lesbian, but because Fuller was eight years older than Bloch, who routinely dressed as a man. Bloch took the professional name of Gab Sorère around 1920, and collaborated with Fuller, while working as a promoter of other artists. Fuller was the performer of the duo and Sorère worked as a stage designer and invented mechanical props, branching into filmmaking.
Loie Fuller by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
Loie Fuller by Auguste Rodin
Fuller became one of the first of many American modern dancers who traveled to Europe to seek recognition. Her warm reception in Paris persuaded Fuller to remain in France, where she became one of the leading revolutionaries in the arts. A regular performer at the Folies Bergère with works such as Fire Dance,, Fuller became the embodiment of the Art Nouveau movement and was often identified with Symbolism, as her work was seen as the perfect reciprocity between idea and symbol. Fuller began adapting and expanding her costume and lighting, so that they became the principle element in her performance—perhaps even more important than the actual choreography, especially as the length of the skirt was increased and became the central focus, while the body became mostly hidden within the depths of the fabric. An 1896 film of the Serpentine Dance by the pioneering film-makers Auguste and Louis Lumière gives a hint of what her performance was like. (The unknown dancer in the film is often mistakenly identified as Fuller herself; however, there is no actual film footage of Fuller dancing.)
Fuller's pioneering work attracted the attention, respect, and friendship of many French artists and scientists. Fuller was also a member of the Société astronomique de France (French Astronomical Society).
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). She attempted to create a patent of her Serpentine Dance as she hoped to stop imitators from taking her choreography and even claiming to be her. Fuller submitted a written description of her dance to the United States Copyright Office; however, a US Circuit Court judge ended up denying Fuller's request for an injunction, as the Serpentine Dance told no story and was therefore not eligible for copyright protection. At that time dance was only protected if it qualified as "dramatic" and Fuller's dance was too abstract for this qualification. The precedent set by Fuller's case remained in place from 1892 until 1976, when Federal Copyright Law explicitly extended protection to choreographic works.
Fuller supported other pioneering performers, such as fellow United States-born dancer Isadora Duncan. Fuller helped Duncan ignite her European career in 1902 by sponsoring independent concerts in Vienna and Budapest.
Loie Fuller's original stage name was "Louie". In modern French "L'ouïe" is the word for a sense of hearing. When Fuller reached Paris she gained a nickname which was a pun on "Louie"/"L'ouïe". She was renamed "Loïe" - this nickname is a corruption of the early or Medieval French "L'oïe", a precursor to "L'ouïe", which means "receptiveness" or "understanding". She was also referred to by the nickname "Lo Lo Fuller".
Fuller formed a close friendship with Queen Marie of Romania; their extensive correspondence has been published. Fuller, through a connection at the United States embassy in Paris played a role in arranging a United States 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.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. She died of pneumonia at the age of 65 on January 1, 1928 in Paris, two weeks shy of her 66th birthday. She was cremated and her ashes are interred in the columbarium at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Her sister, Mollie Fuller, had a long career as an actress and vaudeville performer.Fuller occasionally returned to America to stage performances by her students, the "Fullerets" or Muses, but spent the end of her life in Paris. She died of pneumonia at the age of 65 on January 1, 1928 in Paris, two weeks shy of her 66th birthday. She was cremated and her ashes are interred in the columbarium at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Her sister, Mollie Fuller, had a long career as an actress and vaudeville performer.
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