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Gonzaga Brings Work of Dance Innovator Loie Fuller to Life This Week

Posted on October 11, 2016 in: Academics, Arts, Events, Feature Stories, Lectures, Spotlight, Students

Portrait of Loie Fuller. (By Frederick Glasier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Portrait of Loie Fuller. (By Frederick Glasier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University will bring the work of pioneering American interdisciplinary dance artist Loie Fuller to life on campus this week and next semester through programming spearheaded by Suzanne Ostersmith, assistant professor and director of the dance program. The events are part of Gonzaga’s new interdisciplinary arts minor.

Fuller was a “renaissance woman,” Ostersmith said. Before her death in 1928, Fuller created one-woman shows combining dance and revolutionary theatre lighting with silks. The 1900 Paris World’s Fair featured her own well-attended stage.

A stagecraft innovator, Fuller painted her silks using luminescent salts that created an effect similar to that of the glow-in-the-dark metallic element radium. She was a close personal friend of legendary scientist and Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie, who discovered radium.

Guest artist Jessica Lindberg Coxe will visit classes Thursday and Friday, Oct. 13-14, and host a workshop to teach GU students her reconstruction of Fuller’s famous dance with silks, titled “Lily.” Auditions to cast two dancers as Lily in the 2017 Spring Dance Concert (April 27-29) will follow.

Free Public Lecture, Demonstration Saturday, Oct. 15

Jessica Lindbergh Coxe

Jessica Lindberg Coxe. (Courtesy Jessica Lindberg Coxe)

Coxe will present a free public lecture and demonstration of “Lily,” 3-4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15 in the Magnuson Theatre. A dance historian, performer and educator interested in the reconstruction and performance of Fuller’s work, Coxe studied at Martha Graham School, the Joffrey Ballet and the Washington Ballet, and has performed with dance companies nationwide.

“We’ve never hired a professional artist to set a historic work like this,” Ostersmith said. “That is really significant, and marks the growth and development of this program.”

Megan Slayter, a second guest artist, will work with Gonzaga’s Spring Dance Concert technicians and designers to capture the lighting as it was done by Fuller more than a century ago, Ostersmith said, adding she “fell in love” with Fuller’s work during her years of dance research. Ostersmith said she was excited to find Fuller’s work in the Maryhill Museum of Art, a 4-hour drive from Spokane overlooking the Columbia River on Washington’s State Route 14.

Sam Hill originally built the property near Goldendale, Washington, as a mansion for his deceased wife Mary. July will mark the 100-year-anniversary of Fuller convincing Hill to turn the would-be mansion into a museum of art featuring works from herself and other artists, including Auguste Rodin. Ostersmith said Maryhill will host a Loie Fuller celebration in July and she hopes to bring students performers to showcase their work.

Elaina Pignolet, senior art major with minors in dance and interdisciplinary arts, spent a summer researching Fuller and traveling to Maryhill with Ostersmith. The Jundt Art Museum will feature a Fuller display in spring semester (2017).

New Interdisciplinary Arts Minor

Kathleen Jeffs, assistant professor and chair of the theatre and dance department, will co-direct the new minor with Ostersmith. The minor aims to expands students’ problem-solving, critical reflection and innovative thinking by combining the strengths of theatre, dance, visual arts, and music. The minor also allows students in science, technology engineering and math (STEM) majors to integrate valuable arts experience into their skill set.

For more information, contact Suzanne Ostersmith at or (509) 313-6508 or visit the website for the interdisciplinary arts minor:


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