Fuller was a child actress who worked in pantomime and then moved into burlesque and was influenced by the special effects of the stage, in which magic lanterns and calcium lights were used to project images onto fabric, and also the long lengths of material adapted for use in the skirts of other dancers in burlesque and vaudeville.
These photographs of Fuller go some way to displaying the drama and spectacle of Fuller's costume and choreography. She creates dramatic shapes which are very reminiscent of a butterfly and a flower. She is literally engulfed in a column of fabric in the photographs below. The photographs are by Samuel Joshua Beckett and Frederick Glasier.
Fuller combined a mixture of these special effects and developed others of her own to create something unique to stage performance at that time. Her first major choreographic hit was the Serpentine Dance of 1891 which became popular. She got into dispute with the management of the theatre however, and was released from her contract as result. Another dancer was hired by the theatre to perform Fuller's Serpentine Dance and this led to a legal battle to copyright her work, which ended in failure. Fuller then left the United States for Paris where her dances such as Papillon (1892),and Dance of the Lily, caused a sensation and she found huge acclaim amongst artists and writers as well as the general public.
So popular did Fuller become that she was given her own theatre at the Exposition Universelle in Paris 1900. Here she was able to generously support other female dancers such as Isadora Duncan. Although Duncan is attributed as being the first pioneer of modern dance, we can now see the innovative work and techniques that Fuller created and performed throughout her career show her to be the actual original pioneer.
An example of Loie Fuller's choreography can be seen by clicking on the screen below. There seems to be much dispute about the many video clips which make claims to be of Loie Fuller dancing, and of which dance she is actually performing. The woman in this clip resembles Fuller, and at the beginning of the clip the dancer is definitely performing a Butterfly dance, despite it being labelled the Serpentine Dance. If anybody reading knows better however, then please enlighten me.