LOIE FULLER: Goddess of Light by Richard Nelson & Marcia Ewing Current Current

LOIE FULLER: Goddess of Light

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A biography of the unique performer once described as ""the beautiful girl who, in her floating draperies, swirls endlessly around in an ecstasy."" With Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, Fuller is generally credited with inventing American modern dance. But unlike the other two women, she accomplished her work primarily with imagery, created by the interplay of fabric, which she manipulated, and special lighting effects that brought the use of electric light in crafting theatrical illusion to unimagined heights of sophistication. The Currents are not dance historians--he is a Bancroft Prize-winning biographer and historian, and she is an art curator and a collector of art inspired by Fuller--and their cursory comments on other dancers and dance history are not the book's strong point. But their portrait of Fuller as a businesswoman of the theater is vivid and detailed. She wasn't content simply to perform. Instead, Fuller established a school and two art museums, choreographed prolifically and produced countless shows, toured the world with her company of dancers (and a large corps of electricians), wrote plays, explored and advanced various techniques of stagecraft, and served as an all-around muse for emerging Art Nouveau. She also rose socially from her midwestern milieu (she was born in Illinois in 1862) to become the close friend of Rodin, Pierre and Marie Curie, and Princess Marie of Romania. Our glimpses here of Loie the woman are relatively few. Her private life, including various flirtations with women and one long-term relationship, seems less open to scrutiny than her theatrical impact, and this is too bad. The Currents' tendency to portray her as a shy plain-Jane who compensated royally onstage is also too simple to fully persuade. Still, this saga of a life in the theater is irresistible in romantic scope, in sheer unlikelihood, and in Fuller's persistence of vision. It's a tale of impossible dreams mostly fulfilled.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1997
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Northeastern Univ.