Lumière Brothers - The Serpentine Dance in 1899

The Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas (19 October 1862, Besançon, France – 10 April 1954, Lyon) and Louis Jean (5 October 1864, Besançon, France – 6 June 1948, Bandol), were among the earliest filmmakers in history.

Their work consisted mainly of moving images from scenes of everyday 


Each frame of this 19th century film by the Lumière brothers was hand-colored to create an early color moving picture. And the dancing was inspired by Loie Fuller, a modern dance pioneer

Born in Chicago in 1862, Loie Fuller began her stage career as a child actress. During her twenties, she performed as a skirt dancer on the burlesque circuit. In 1891 she went on tour with a melodrama called "Quack MD," playing a character who performed a skirt dance while under hypnosis. Fuller began experimenting with the effect the gas lighting had on her silk skirt and received special notice in the press. Her next road tour, in a show called "Uncle Celestine," featured this new version of the skirt dance. By emphasizing the body was transformed by the artfully moving silk. One reviewer described the effect as "unique, ethereal, delicious...she emerges from darkness, her airy evolutions now tinted blue and purple and crimson, and again the audience...insists upon seeing her pretty piquant face before they can believe that the lovely apparition is really a woman."

She was an inventor and stage craft innovator who held many patents for stage lighting, including the first chemical mixes for gels and slides and the first use of luminescent salts to create lighting effects. She was also an early innovator in lighting design, and was the first to mix colors and explore new angles.         

…the female dancer will eventually return to the cultural and even intellectual center stage with a vengeance. Described as a poet and metaphysician in her own right, she appears in nineteenth-century Paris as the true muse of poets and philosophers.

Before our very eyes she turned to many-coloured shining orchids, to a wavering, flowing sea-flower, and at length to a spiral-like lily, all the magic of Merlin, the sorcery of light, colour, flowing form… She transformed herself into a thousand colourful images before the eyes of her audience. Unbelievable. Not to be repeated or described 

Coloured lights and projections playing on silk… were not new. The Panarama, Diarama, phantasmagoria, and magic lantern were popular entertainments in Paris and London in the late eighteen hundreds. Central to Fuller’s performance was a moving image made animate by the projection of coloured light and slides. But one is the inversion of the other. Those early motion picture performances moved the light or projected images on to a static screen. Instead, [Fuller] moved the huge screen, moulding it into fantastic shapes and forms

First [Fuller] increased the size of the skirt until it became ‘draperies’. This allowed a radical shift in emphasis to take place and changed the performance matrix… the skirt itself became the central focus as the most important and the most essential mobile image… By carefully choosing and arranging twelve coloured lights of great intensity, she further abstracted and enlarged the image, creating a new dance

From the unearthly appearance of my dances, caused by the light and mingling of colours… the being flitting about there before them among the shadows and flashes of light belongs to the unreal world

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