Dance Research Journal
Long before I became a committed academic, long before I was a college professor teaching dance history, long before terminal degrees and professional titles, I chanced upon an exhibition of early dance photographs at the Rodin Museum in Paris. I bought the small catalogue, and from time to time I would page through the striking black and white images searching for dancing inspiration. I always paused at a certain one of Loïe Fuller. There she is, radiant in the sunlight of Rodin's garden, chest open, arms spread like great wings, running full force towards the camera. It is an image of a strong, mature woman, one who exudes a joyful, yet earthy energy. A copy of this photograph taken in 1900 by Eugène Druet currently hangs above my desk. With a nod to the meanings embedded in historical study, Walter Benjamin once wrote: “To dwell means to leave traces” (1999, 9). Indeed, traces are the material artifacts that constitute the stuff of historical inquiry, the bits and pieces of a life that scholars follow, gather up, and survey. The word itself suggests the actual imprint of a figure who has passed, the footprint, mark or impression of a person or event. These kinds of traces are omnipresent in the case of Loie Fuller. Some traces are more visible than others, some more easily located. But all traces—once noticed—draw us into another reality.