Ask an expert - LIZ HEINECKE, AUTHOR

What should we know about Loie Fuller?

Loie Fuller was born before Hinsdale was, on a chilly January night in 1862 at the Castle Inn near what is now the village intersection of Ogden Avenue and York Road.

Her uncle was Ben Fuller, the area's most prominent settler. But it was Loie who would earn worldwide fame as a groundbreaking dancer and visionary, mesmerizing audiences by incorporating electric lights into her performances.

In her book, "Radiant: The Dancer, The Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light," author Liz Heinecke illuminates Fuller's legacy as a pioneer of modern dance as well her friendship with renowned physicist and chemist Marie Curie during her many years in Paris. Heinecke will discuss her book from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, at the Hinsdale Public Library (see Page 26 for details).

Heinecke, of Minneapolis, admitted that Fuller was not her intended subject when she launched the project.

"I wanted to write about a woman in science, and I was doing some research into Marie Curie and I ran into references to Loie Fuller in Curie's biography," she related.

Further research at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts revealed a fascinating side to the innovative artist.

"I was able to go though (Fuller's) personal papers, and she wrote extensively about her meeting with Thomas Edison," Heinecke said. "I started to realize how interested Loie was in science and technology, and that she had spent so much time talking to Marie Curie."

She decided to weave together the women's stories and the unlikely connection between these two immigrants to the City of Light.

"It was kind of like putting a big puzzle together, trying to document the times that they met," Heinecke remarked. "It was really fun doing. I love Paris and I love the arts."

Heinecke said Fuller was a savvy marketer, fashioning an image for herself that fueled her celebrity, as evidenced by the vibrant promotional posters for her shows. Unfortunately, her talent did not extend to money management, and she often found herself heavily in debt.

"She was always getting herself into trouble, she was just so devoted to her art," Heinecke said. "She was always searching for the credit she deserved. Maybe that's what made her so creative."

Fuller, who got her start in Chicago theaters, struggled to find success in her travels throughout the States. Moving to Paris in her 20s with her mother during the Art Nouveau period, Fuller enhanced her shows with Edison's invention through lighting effects, changing colors and luminescent costumes. Curie helped her experiment with light refraction using chemicals, according to Heinecke, some of which would later prove to be toxic.

Her family-friendly shows were in contrast to the burlesque dancers of the day. Fuller performed for royalty and even dabbled in filmmaking until her passing in 1928.

"She continued to reinvent herself up until her death," Heinecke said.

Heinecke hopes to convey Fuller's significance in her talk.

"I want people to know who Loie Fuller is and the important things she's done for dance and the arts," she said.

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean