History of Dance: The Serpentine Dance (1896)

During my adventures of diving into the world of belly dance and its history, the following has left me quite breathless today. I stumbled upon a movie made in 1896 by the Lumière brothers; a frame by frame hand coloured stunning piece of art.

Click this link to see the film -> Danse Serpentine

Background information

The Serpentine is an evolution of the skirt dance, a form of burlesque dance that had recently arrived in the United States from England. Skirt dancing was itself a reaction against “academic” forms of ballet, incorporating tamed-down versions of folk and popular dances like the can-can. The new dance was originated by Loïe Fuller, who gave varying accounts of how she developed it. By her own account, which is widely reported, having never danced professionally before, she accidentally discovered the effects of stage light cast from different angles on the gauze fabric of a costume she had hastily assembled for her performance in the play Quack M.D., and spontaneously developed the new form in response to the audience’s enthusiastic reaction upon seeing the way her skirt appeared in the lights. During the dance she held her long skirt in her hands, and waved it around, revealing her form inside.

The Serpentine Dance was a frequent subject of early motion pictures, as it highlighted the new medium’s ability to portray movement and light. Two particularly well-known versions were Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1894), a performance by Broadway dancer Annabelle Whitford from Edison Studios, and an 1896 Lumière brothers film of Fuller performing the dance. Many other filmmakers produced their own versions, distributing prints that had been hand-tinted to evoke (though not quite reproduce) the appearance of colored light projection. (Source Wikipedia)

I think -this- is what genuine, bedazzling entertainment looks like. Isn’t just everything gorgeous about this?


6 thoughts on “History of Dance: The Serpentine Dance (1896)

    • Uhu.. I posted it to facebook to show my dancegroup too and the teacher noted how it looks like it’s an awful lot of work. I don’t disagree with her. That’s a proper work-out heheh

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