Dance Scholar Tangles Audience in the Works of Loïe Fuller

by Brooke Ketron

Leading scholar of Loïe Fuller and Artistic Director of Time Lapse Dance, Jodie Sperling, visited campus on Wed, Nov. 30 to dedicate a lecture on the connection of Fuller’s art, modern cinema‘s use of lighting and modern dance.

Orchesis dancers glided across the studio floor with clouds of fabric following their movements. Using fabric as an extension of movement seemed difficult for most, as if it were a foreign language for the body. A few dancers laughed as they got caught in their scarves and others waited patiently for further instruction.

One of the first multimedia artists’ work comes to Wilson

“She [Fuller] was the first multimedia artist, before there was even a sense of what that was,” says Sperling.

Fuller developed her dance in Europe in the 1890s using elaborate costuming and custom illumination creating abstract imagery with the use of fabric and light. “Fuller was the first to harness electric lighting to its full potential. The excess fabric in costumes created a better screen to project light and images,” explains Sperling, “Her best known work featured dancers looking as if their costumes were made of flames and they were being consumed by them on stage.”

Wilson students follow in the footsteps of Fuller’s techniques

Sperling directed a class of Wilson’s Orchesis members after her lecture. Students were introduced to several of Fuller’s techniques, including using fabric to emphasize movement. “It’s important to keep the history of dance alive and true…I’m so happy to have a chance to be exposed to another field of dance and expertise outside of mine,” comments Prof. of Dance, Paula Kellinger.

Fuller’s work is described as a living environment, creating moving sculptural forms that are inherently dramatic. Her interest in various elements of the visual created “larger than life images that are her legacy,” admires Sperling.

Students also enjoyed learning new techniques, “Moving with scarves is a lot more difficult than it sounds,” comments Jenna Yeager ‘12. As a Dance major, Yeager explained the importance of being exposed to various forms of movement. “Everyone has a differently style of moving and it’s nice to get out of your comfort zone and dance in a new way,” she adds.

Fuller is credited with pioneering the field of modern dance and theatrical lighting. Her dances went against the norms of what was considered dancing during her time. “She was relentlessly independent and utterly fearless,” describes Sperling, “She was not concerned with conventions.”

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