US dancer, choreographer, and stage lighting innovator, who was among the first to use luminous phosphorescent materials, to dance on glass lit from below, and to employ silhouette-and-shadow effects. Her main base was Paris, where she first appeared at the Folies-Bergère in 1892 and where she was celebrated by artists and intellectuals. She toured with her company of young women and founded a dance school in Paris in 1902.
Born in Fullersburg, Illinois, from the age of two and a half she was a public entertainer, acting and touring throughout her childhood. By 1883 she was performing on Broadway and by 1888 she was touring with her own company. In an 1891 play, in an attempt to make herself appear exotic, she experimented by dancing while waving a skirt of Chinese silk under the stage lighting. Seeing its effect on the audience, she worked up a solo routine that relied more on the special lighting and the billowy silk than on any particular dance steps. It made such a sensation in a New York show in 1892 that she took her ‘serpentine’ dance to Europe later that year. She spent the rest of her life there, with only brief visits to the USA, appearing at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910. She danced with Isadora Duncan in 1902.
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