Women Pioneers of Dance on Screen

Photographic portrait of Loie Fuller, taken by Reutlinger, late nineteenth century. Loie Fuller Ⓒ Victoria and Albert Museum, London

International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is, therefore, an opportunity to recall that the art form of dance on screen, (also termed as Chore-Cinema, Cine-Dance, and Screen-Dance) is based on the aesthetic visions of extraordinary women pioneers of film, dance and hybrid performance and technology. Dance on screen is the offshoot of the creative powers of female artists from the dawn of modern art, dance and film: Loie Fuller (1862- 1928), Valentine de Saint-Point (1875-1953), Germain Dulac (1882 –1942) and Maya Deren (1917- 1961). Despite the passage of time, these women not only impress our aesthetic sensibilities through their works of art, but encourage us to rethink our identity and place in the world as women in the 21st century.

Loie Fuller, Valentine de Saint-Point, Germaine Dulac and Maya Deren presented the female body in formal integration with the technological advancements of their time such as artificial lighting, still photography, visual projection and film. They were aware of the emergence of the modern world; and consciously placed the feminine body and psyche at the centre of this world. Moreover, Loie Fuller, Valentine de Saint-Point, and Maya Deren utilised their (personal) physical body and aspects of their psyche as the central theme of their works in dance, performance and film.

These female artists also incorporated a form of spiritualised, holistic, and Goddess-inspired  aesthetic awareness in their performances and films. For example, Loie Fuller’s aesthetics were interlinked with ideas and phenomena prevalent in modern spiritualism such as hypnosis, trance and spirit photography.

Valentine de Saint-Point’s Metachory dances induced a subtle interplay of visceral and metaphysical/mystical ideas issuing from oriental mysticism. She described the structure of her ‘Metachory’ dances in metaphysical terms, relating to the idea or concept as the soul of the work, the dance as the skeleton, and the music as flesh.

Maya Deren described her films as ‘metaphysical films’ in her ‘Statement of Principles’, and developed a ritualistic film form, goddess-inspired, and informed by her explorations of ritualistic dances and Haitian Voudoun.

The ideas and images created by these mothers of dance on screen still ignite  the imagination, stimulate us intellectually and enchant our awareness.


The original blog post was published on Friday, 8 March 2013

To read the full version including a dance video, see  link

Dr Lila Moore holds a practice-based PhD in Dance on Screen (2001, Middlesex University.