Of the foremothers of modern dance Loie Fuller was the oddest. She was an American stage dancer whose technique nowhere approximated that of Bessie Clayton, the teenage girl who would replace her in the cast of the 1894 musical "A Trip to Chinatown," and a barefoot dancer whose fame rested on a single dance, le serpentine, performed from the mid-1890s in America to the turn-of-the-century Folies Bergere in Paris. And yet there was no denying the genius of this ongoing quasi-improvisational performance.
By dressing in an irredescent costume which expanded when in motion to form voluminous wings, cyclones, rippling columns or disks and by dancing before a huge mirror place 40 feet into the seating, Fuller had a unique grasp of how her internal sense of motion correlated with stage images of herself. Though not a beauty, she best of the early modern dancers understood the central roles that fashion and decor played eithin her craft. David S. Shields/ALS