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Jody Sperling in Book of Clouds. Courtesy of Sperling

Tonight Jody Sperling, artistic director of Time Lapse Dance, advocate for the environment and expert on the work of Loie Fuller, brings a new performance installation, Book of Clouds, to Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.

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Sperling in her Time-Lapse Fantasy (2013). Photo courtesy of Time Lapse Dance
When French director Stéphanie Di Giusto set out to create a film about Loie Fuller, the modern dancer (1862–1928) known for her groundbreaking work with fabric and lighting design, Di Giusto came to Jody Sperling for advice. For the past 17 years, Sperling has made a name for herself as an expert on "La Loïe" by breathing new life into Fuller's work via Sperling's small company, Time Lapse Dance. She and her dancers masterfully re-create Fuller's serpentine, otherworldly style—a process that requires considerable upper-body strength to manipulate voluminous, cape-like costumes.

La Danseuse, which premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival last May, explores Fuller's bon vivant expatriate life in Paris. Granted, says Sperling, the film “takes a lot of license with history," but Di Giusto wasn't interested in a strict retelling. “She didn't want to do a museum piece," says Sperling. “She wanted to tell Loie's story in a way that would speak to a contemporary audience."

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At first, climate change doesn't sound like the type of topic that would lend itself easily to dance. But Jody Sperling (DT, May 2015) is eager to prove that thought wrong this weekend, with her global warming–inspired evening, Polar Rhythms: Dance and Music of Ice. Beginning this evening and continuing through Saturday in New York City, Sperling will present a dance performance alongside post-show talkbacks, panel discussions and kid-friendly workshops with scientists and climate educators.

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Jody Sperling's video "Ice Floe" (edited by Ben Harden and Amanda Kowalski) received second place from Human Impact Institute's Creative Climate Awards. Photo by Pierre Coupel.

In 2014, Jody Sperling became the first choreographer to conduct research on a U.S. Coast Guard science expedition to the Arctic Ocean. She's now making a 30-minute work that she hopes will call attention to the impact of climate change.

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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.

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