Tag Archives: Costumes

Loïe Fuller’s serpentine success

loie fuller

Skirt dancing, involving the dancer’s graceful manipulation of a full skirt, was a widely popular genre in the U.S. when Loïe Fuller premiered her Serpentine dance in 1892.

Fuller’s costume for this dance involved so much fabric that—combined with atmospheric lighting—it almost completely obscured her human form. By shifting the focus from the dancer to the costume, she added a new level of abstraction to the skirt dance genre, prefiguring many of the innovations of modern dance.

The dance was a huge success and was much imitated, prompting Fuller to sue for copyright infringement; but the judge ruled against her, stating that a dance depicting no story, character, or emotion could not be considered a “dramatic composition” protected by the copyright act.

This according to “Loïe Fuller’s Serpentine dance: A discussion of its origins in skirt dancing and creative reconstruction” by Jody Sperling (Proceedings of the Society for Dance History Scholars XXII [1999] pp. 53–56). Below, a hand-colored 1895 film of an unnamed dancer by the Lumière brothers suggests what Fuller’s performance was like.

Related article: Tórtola Valencia and Otherness

2 Comments

Filed under Dance

Surva: Dancing for the unripe year

On 14 January, which is both New Year’s Day and the Feast of St. Basil according to the old Orthodox calendar, villagers in Bulgaria and Macedonia perform the costumed ceremonial dance known as  Сурва (Surva, “unripe year”). Children between 4 and 14 years old participate in the малечка Сурва (small Surva), while adults between 15 and 35 perform in the голема Сурва (big Surva).

On the eve of the event, youths go from house to house collecting wood for the ceremonial bonfire. In the morning the participants choose their roles and don the corresponding masks and sheepskin capes. The stock characters may include a groom, a bride, a devil, a priest, a gypsy, and a dancer with a bear. To the accompaniment of drums and shawms, the dancers parade through the village with abundant comical antics. The ceremony culminates with a spirited dance around the collective bonfire.

This according to “Сурварските обичаи од неколку струмички села” (Old customs performed on New Year’s day in villages of the Strumičko region) by Ivan Kotev, an essay included in Rad XIX kongresa Saveza Udruženja Folklorista Jugoslavije (Skopje: Združenie na Folkloristite na Makedonija, 1977, pp. 207–212). Below, Surva in Krupnik, Bulgaria.

1 Comment

Filed under Dance, Europe, World music