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Loie Fuller's Serpentine Dance and Futurism: Electricity, Technological Imagination and the Myth of the Machine

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The American dancer Loie Fuller, muse of the Symbolists and mentioned by Marinetti in the Manifesto of Futurist Dance (1917), was responsible for a radical, conceptual innovation in the field of dance that exerted an important influence on the Futurists. Her Serpentine Dance (1892) made use of artificial extensions of the dancer's arms, allowing her to move the hem of an enormously large costume into the surrounding space, and employed magic lanterns that projected varying coloured lights onto the costume's cloth. By these means, her dance achieved the suggestion of a prosthetic body, exploiting electricity in a phantasmagoric way. Fuller made her costumed body shift in space as if it were a rhythmically moving shape that existed independently of herself as an animated, chromo-luminous mechanism. Loie Fuller's influence, paradoxically, did not fully materialize in the field of Futurist dance, where the model of the robot prevailed over her subtle strategy of allusive effects. The dematerialization of physicality and the chromatic transmutation of Fuller's dances influenced Ginna and Corra, inspired the stage-set of Balla's Feu d'artifice (1917) and played a significant role in Prampolini's staging theories.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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