(b Fullersburg, Ill., 22 Jan. 1862; d Paris, 21 Jan. 1928)
US dancer, choreographer, designer, and director. She had no formal dance education but gained her experience on stage as an actress, playwright, singer, dancer, and producer between 1865 and 1891. In 1891 a chance manœuvre dealing with an over-long skirt gave her the idea of The Serpentine Dance (1891), a solo whose effects were created by manipulating long trains of silk. Her subsequent dances gained her a world-wide audience, particularly in Europe where she made her debut in 1892. Embraced as a fellow revolutionary by the Symbolists, Impressionists, and Art Nouveau movements she was painted and sculpted by many artists. Her works employed light, thrown on lengths of diaphanous silk which she then manipulated with her own body movements and with long sticks to create an exotic range of forms, as in The Butterfly (1892), Clouds (1893), and Fire Dance (1895). From 1900 she began creating group works and using more complex costumes and light effects. She formed her own school in 1908 and in the same year published her autobiography, Quinze ans de ma vie (English translation, London, 1913). She continued performing until 1925 during which time she made significant contributions to the arts of stage costume and lighting.