Theses Bachelor's

Choreographing Epiphany: The Strategy Behind Loie Fuller's Symbolism

Novello, Zoe

This thesis investigates how and why choreographer, stage-lighting innovator, and costume designer, Loie Fuller, became a symbol of Art Nouveau and Modernism within her lifetime, as well as, how and why pop-stars, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, utilized Fuller's image and choreography to similar ends in the 2010s. With a particular focus on Fuller’s role in her own symbolization by way of the mythologized origin story she told about how destiny led her to unconsciously discover the “Serpentine Dance,” I argue that her symbolism for these art movements was purposely constructed as a way of differentiating herself from other dancers and crafting a perceived uniqueness which made her performances more consumable and harder to replicate. After this, I move to the 2010s to analyze the use of Fuller’s image and choreography in Swift's performance of "Dress" during her reputation Stadium Tour and Gaga's "Applause" music video. Both Swift and Gaga emphasize a specific narrative about Fuller related to their work as they re-perform her choreography, thereby crafting Fuller into a symbol which they use to assert control over their work. This irony – that Swift and Fuller attempt to assert control over their innovations by imitating Fuller, exposes how both musicians utilize Fuller in their work not to honor her as it may seem, but rather to, in very distinct ways, shape the public's understanding of the performer's sexuality to be most marketable to their distinct audiences.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Dance (Barnard College)
Thesis Advisors
Williams, Seth Stewart
B.A., Barnard College
Published Here
August 6, 2021