Loie Fuller dons one of her famous costumes. Photo courtesy of The Dance Collection, NY Public Library for the Performing Arts
Before there was Martha Graham or Isadora Duncan, there was Loie Fuller (1862–1928), the toast of Paris nicknamed “La Loïe." Poets like William Butler Yeats lauded her, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted her and sculptor Auguste Rodin allegedly captured her in marble. Although plump, plain-faced and untrained (not a tall and lovely sylph as she was often depicted), La Loïe, born Mary Louise Fuller, was so popular during her time that a disappointed spectator once pulled a gun when she failed to perform as scheduled. “She literally hypnotized a whole generation of audiences," says world-renowned Fuller expert Jody Sperling, artistic director of Time Lapse Dance. But despite having been a catalyst for modern dance and pioneering the use of theatrical special effects, Fuller is largely forgotten in her native America.