Loie Fuller (January 15, 1862 – January 1, 1928) was a pioneer of both modern dance and theatrical lighting techniques.
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. Fuller combined her choreography with silk costumes illuminated by multi-coloured lighting of her own design.
Although Fuller became famous in America through works such as Serpentine Dance (1891), she felt that she was not taken seriously by the public who still thought of her as an actress. Her warm reception in Paris during a European tour persuaded Fuller to remain in France and continue her work. A regular performer at the Folies Bergère with works such as Fire Dance, Fuller became the embodiment of the Art Nouveau movement.
Fuller's pioneering work attracted the attention, respect, and friendship of many French artists and scientists, including Jules Chéret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, François-Raoul Larche, Henri-Pierre Roché, Auguste Rodin, Franz von Stuck, Maurice Denis, Thomas Theodor Heine, Koloman Moser, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Marie Curie. 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. Fuller was also a member of the French Astronomical Society.
Loie Fuller by Toulouse-Lautrec
Loie Fuller's original stage name was "Louie". In modern French "L'ouie" is the word for a sense of hearing. When Fuller reached Paris she gained a nickname which was a pun on "Louie"/"L'ouie". She was renamed "Loïe" - this nickname is a corruption of the early or Medieval French "L'oïe", a precursor to "L'ouie", which means "receptiveness" or "understanding".
Loie Fuller by Frederick Glasier, 1902
Fuller formed a close friendship with Queen Marie of Romania; their extensive correspondence has been published. Fuller, through a connection at the U.S. embassy in Paris played a role in arranging a U.S. 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.
Loie Fuller by Koloman Moser, 1901
Fuller occasionally returned to America to stage performances by her students, the "Fullerets" or Muses, but spent the end of her life in Paris where she died of pneumonia on January 1, 1928 at age 65.