Dancer or Artist? A Spotlight on Jody Sperling

An avid connoisseur of dance and the avant-garde performer Loie Fuller, Jody Sperling gave a keen lecture on October 4th at Baruch College’s building on 17 Lexington Avenue.

Sperling has been the artistic director of Time Lapse Dance since its start in 2000. She attended Wesleyan University, where she earned a BA in dance and Italian, and holds an MA in performance studies in NYU, according to her website, She opened the 2 hour-long lecture with images and video clips from her company’s past performances, whose style is heavily influenced by Loie Fuller. Via her iPad, the multimedia presented beautiful modern dance categorized by ethereal, fluent movement that is sculpted and manipulated by light. Sperling explains the extent to which the transformation of light projections and color plays an important role in creating the illusion of abstract objects like flowers, water, fire, patterns, and animals like the snake in the famous “snake dance” by Fuller. The stage is a canvas in which she fully utilizes the light projections and sweeping spinning movements to “sculpt” a perpetually moving piece of art.

In one video clip shown, she twirls, arms creating grand sweeping movements, on a box that projects red, orange and yellow lights. Superfluous, lush fabric creates an environment around the dancer that envelops her, making the shape of the body nondescript, she says. Sometimes, there may be bilateral lights of two different colors that play with each other on the abundant ripples of the fabric, which is often white. Green and blue lights combined with fluent movement might mock the essence of an ocean, for instance. Sperling explains how sticks, used as invisible extensions of the arms, are responsible for creating the grand movements, which can be attributed to Fuller. The use of mirrors is sometimes incorporated into the performance, as the running dancers disappear and then instantly reappear. It gives off a kaleidoscopic, transcendental experience.

Sperling allotted a significant part of her lecture to describing the heavy influence of Fuller’s signature “Snake Dance.” It is created by waving the stick extensions, attached to the thick layers of fabric, in a cycle of oscillations. The trail of fabric in motion creates the illusion of a slithering snake. This is one of the factors that caused Fuller’s fame to escalate, which also spurred the rise of impersonators. According to Sperling, the Snake Dance was actually first performed in front of a live audience in France by an impersonator. Sperling showed students old art deco posters advertising the dance, explaining that there are no actual images or video of the real Loie Fuller performing.

Sperling is the definition of a visual artist, just as she is the definition of a dancer. She embraces every facet of visual art, while drawing inspiration from history, to create an impressionable work. Aside from blood, sweat and tears, donations are what keep the company alive, she explains. Visit her website to buy tickets or to donate.



| Leave a comment

Fuller’s Dance in Sperling Style

Two weeks ago, my classmates and I went to the 17 Lexington Ave building for a class by a guest speaker. Thinking that I am going to hear a boring speech on how someone named Jody Sperling succeed in life, I was surprised to find the lesson focused majorly on another person and how that person had influenced her. Ms. Jody Sperling gave us a small but very interesting lecture on Loie Fuller, a great dancer, in which she told us the life story of Ms. Fuller and the reasons for her to go into this business she had started.

Of course, as an introduction, she told us a little bit about herself. Jody was a student at NYU, where she began her career as a dancer (majored in Performance Studies). Ever since she fell in love with the Fuller style dancing when she was performing the Butterfly Dance (one of the symbolic dance of Loie Fuller) in the Library of Congress, she continued to invest in her interest by starting her own company. As the lesson went on, I noticed that, as a dancer, an entrepreneur and a choreographer, Jody Sperling is similar in many ways comparing to Loie Fuller. Perhaps that is why Jody had decided to focus on Ms. Fuller’s dancing styles when she founded her company—Time Lapse Dance.

Loie Fuller is the mother of modern dance, who actually invented the idea of abstract dancing. She was influenced by her father, who was in a business closely connected to music, and thus began her career as a very young dancer during the temperance movement. From how Ms. Sperling talked about this woman, I could tell that Ms. Fuller was her model. She told us that Fuller was very innovative and almost daring in a way, even from today’s point of view. Inspired by Skirt Dancing, a very popular dance during the period, Loie Fuller took the idea of “moving with the skirt” to a whole new level. She added light effects into the performance, which was never done before, and changed the complex clothing into a simple, long, white and silky costume. When she danced, as Jody described, “her body disappeared into the fabric”. Lights shined on her clothes, and because of the fabric, the different colors were displayed on the dress that Fuller wore. The whole dance became a live movie.

Jody Sperling, on the other hand, also wanted to do something different, added new elements into the “Loie Fuller Style”. Instead of following the “traditional” classical music trend, Jody used different music styles. In addition, she put in many different instruments from a variety of cultures to reflect the diverse pool of themes she wanted to show. For example, in a recent piece, Jody brought in a different theme by adding the turbulence into her background music, which immediately changed the entire mood of the performance along with the change of colors in lighting.

Loie Fuller was the creator of many symbolic dances, such as the Serpentine and the Butterfly. Although not recognized as an individual artist at first, Fuller worked toward her goals, despite all the obstacles, and eventually debuted in Paris with her name on the billboard—Loie Fuller. Jody also experienced many problems when she first started the company. With all the fundraising and dancing, she had to work as a businesswoman in addition to a dancer. However, like Loie Fuller, Jody Sperling is now well known for her achievements in Fuller style dance. She even invented her own spinning techniques along with her co-workers. She described it as a “meditation”, in which you would find “the new center of yourself and the world around you”.

The dance, as Jody told us, was a completely new experience every time. “When you dance”, she said passionately, “it’s amazing how a person can occupy such an amount of space with all the fabric.” If possible, I would definitely like to try this dance, for a feeling of “extending beyond ourselves” is not easily found in today’s world.


| Leave a comment

Jody Sperling, a Passionate and Creative Follower of Loie Fuller

A woman of passion, Jody Sperling spoke graciously with a bright smile as she talked to us about her works and, even more notably, about Loie Fuller. Her love and style sprung not from a childhood idol but from an accident in 1997 when she was working as the Illustrations Editor for the International Encyclopedia of Dance. Together with Elizabeth Aldrich, Sperling choreographed a modern interpretation of Fuller’s The Butterfly Dance. She was initially against performing it at the Library of Congress but yielded to Aldrich’s persuasion. Experiencing the Fuller’s unique dance style first-hand, she became spellbound by its movements that utilized the entire body, which demanded her body to move in sync with the costume.

Sperling’s eyes seemed to sparkle when she formally introduced us to Loie Fuller. Fuller was a pioneer in dance, costume motion and lighting in the 19th century. Her career, however, did not begin in success; others stole and imitated her style but she was unable to win the copyright case. Her dance was judged as “no story, no character, no emotion” by the court. Fuller was not dishearten and became even more determined. She struggled to find a sponsor in France. But when she found one, her astonishing and flamboyant dance singlehandedly stunned France. Her style and techniques, as Sperling put it, “spawn modern dance.” The dance was all about the dramatic transformation and motion of the fabric, thus creating a vortex of shapes. Its effects were further enhanced by projecting vibrant lights onto Fuller’s white costume – each revolving light was human operated. Using such a technique, Fuller became more than just a dancer, she was the scenery.

Advertisement of Loie Fuller's Dance at the Folies Bergère. Poster by PAL (Jean de Paléologue).

(Poster credits to Jean de Paléologue)

As Sperling enthusiastically talked and showed us more of Fuller, through pictures and video clips of Fuller imitators, I was taken in by Sperling’s knowledge, eloquence and passion. I soon found myself mesmerized by the eccentric yet elegant dance style. Although Fuller’s dance style was visually appealing, a few photographs that Sperling showed gave us a fair idea of how extraordinary and difficult it was to perform dances in. It seemed impractical to perform a dance in a dress that was over ten feet long while holding two equally long flexible sticks on both hands. Just holding out our arms for more than two minutes would be exhausting; now, imagine Sperling doing it for an entire show. But with effort, dedication and determination, it was possible. In the clips that Sperling showed us on her and her Time-Lapse Dance Company for the dances, “Dance of the Elements” and “Clair de Lune,” we could see that natural and graceful movements that the dancers made. At one point they appeared to be butterflies flapping their wings and the next as whirlpools swirling in an ocean of blue. They seemed to move almost effortlessly despite the challenges in terms of stamina and the complexity of the dance. Together with the continuous changing of lighting colors, Sperling and her dancers were dazzling.

Modernizing and interpreting Fuller’s dance style with contemporary technologies and dance style was daring. Despite her struggles in fundraising for her company’s dance performances, which typically cost about $40,000 a show, she persisted in her efforts to outreach to sponsors, individuals and friends for fundraising. Sperling and her company were able to rise to the challenge and prevail spectacularly. They were able to perform in the Fall for Dance, Tripeca and SoHo stage, and other countries. As a person with so much success, forming and sustaining a dance company for ten years and dancing and choreographing thirty five dances in twelve years, Sperling was very humble when she came in to speak to us. Her firm demeanor revealed strong hopes for the future as she showed us her modern interpretations of Fuller’s dance style.

Without a doubt, Jody Sperling will capture the hearts of even more people through her passion, determination, efforts, and dances. And in doing so, she will surely revitalize the essences of Fuller’s stunning dance style and inspire others to contribute through their own creativity.


(Photo copyright by Hans Gerritsen)

| Leave a comment

Time Lapse Sperling

Before entering the room, I thought to myself, “How is someone going to talk about dance to us?” Dancing is something you would have to experience, not just something to be told about. This presentation, was surely more of an experience than I had anticipated.

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, dance scholar, and founder and director of Time Lapse Dance. As she progresses into her presentation, her love and passion for dance became readily apparent. She used her iPad to help her with her presentation which started 0ff with a little background of herself. Then, to give the audience who seemed a little distant something to connect to, she asks, “How many of you watch Friends?” This caught the audience’s attention, and she proudly tells them that there is a Loie Fuller poster used as a prop.

Who is Loie Fuller? Jody Sperling’s inspiration from the 19th century. Fuller created an adopted version of the skirt dance called the serpentine dance, which involved motion and light; with an elaborate costume with extended sleeves. The extension of sleeves gives more room for more fabric, which creates the beautiful patterns and colors when light was projected on the dancer. The depths of the costume would create depth in colors, which dance across the blank canvas. The costume, props, light, and movement of the dancers are what creates a new genre of dance and modernizes dance.

Notice the dimension and depth of the colors

Sperling plays a few videos for the audience to see the dancer dancing without sleeves as well as elegant dancing colors. The video of the dancer without a costume on served to be significantly less interesting. However, when the costume is put on with the projected lights, the dance is given life. She also presents the difficulties of the dance, such as syncing with all other dancers on stage. Spinning and dancing isn’t hard and is more like second nature for them. Once the dancers find a common pace, the rest of the dance will be magnificently sewn together.

Without the costume

Of course, creating your own company would cost a lot of money to get it started. Her passion for dance drove her to find the ability to start her own company. She provides a feeling of drive and perseverance. Ms. Jody Sperling tells her audience about fundraising ideas and asking for donations; she also explained some events that she held such as a little thrift sale and wine-tasting event. To surprise us a little, Sperling ends with a note that New York City Department of Cultural Affairs gives out millions of dollars more than the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jody Sperling has become an inspiration. She encourages others to do what they love to do. She is an excellent example that with time and dedication, you can really become whatever it is you want to be and fulfill your dreams.

| Leave a comment

Who’s That Dancing Woman?

I was on the elevator and the woman across from me politely commented “you went to Stuyvesant” and chuckled. We got out and went our separate ways. As I entered the classroom, there was the same woman again. Apparently, the woman I just met was Jody Sperling, our guest speaker for today’s class.

She was gave us an interesting view on her life and how she went on to become a dancer. However, before jumping directly into the details of her own life she whipped out her iPad and her presentation began. She wasn’t just a dancer, she has an amazing knowledge for dance and credibility can be found in her writing as she told us she has written for various publications including the Village Voice. Her presentation really began by introducing Loie Fuller. She was Jody’s inspiration when it came to dancing. Fuller’s technique can be found in the Serpentine dance. A new type of dance was born. It was no longer the dancer moving around anymore. Instead, Fuller created a new experience that was exhilarating and intricate with the many various props, lights, and movements to create special image and picture for the audience. It is this aspect that the dance becomes surprisingly modern. The use of technology has modernized the dance world and created the new genre of modern dance.

Sperling showed us videos and it becomes obvious that Fuller has left her mark. From personal experience, she explained the difficult and tiring mechanics necessary perform routines. There was definitely something different about Sperling’s dance and Fuller’s. It seemed that as a modern dance, evolution is important. Sperling emphasized how she incoporates Fuller’s technique by using the sheets of fabric in her dances. As we watch, we can see familiarity in the lighting and its effect on the dancer as it enshrouds her completely. But dedication and hard work pulled through to recreate the Serpentine dance literally in new light. With the advancement in technology, the creation of different types of light and light angles along with smoke machines can do wonders.

Sperling showed us how added props can do so much to imagery. She did this by showing us a video of a dance without the large amounts of fabric and then another video with the fabric on. Without the fabric, the stage became empty whereas the incorporation of fabric filled up the stage like a peacock showing off its colorful tail feathers. The dance was imbued with life.

Her work as a dancer has led her to the creation of Time Lapse Dance. She expressed passion for dancing and explained how managing a company can be difficult, especially when it first starts up. She explained to us how funding is difficult and a lot of it in the beginning is out of pocket. She works closely with other dancers who do a variety of dances and acrobatics.

Jody Sperling is definitely a great role model. Her numerous achievements and experiences have left an amazing impression on me. Seeing her follow her passion for dancing to the fullest extent showed me how living your life while doing what you love is quite possible as long as you put the time into it.

| 1 Comment

“How about this?”

…Her Managing Editor, Elizabeth Aldrich, had wrote across a post-it note stuck onto a picture of Loie Fuller, all atop Jody Sperling’s desktop when she was working as the Illustrations Editor for the International Encyclopedia of Dance. Loie Fuller was a free-dance practitioner and became famous for her choreography with significantly outsized silk costumes illuminated by her unique use of the vibrant colors of theatrical lighting, Sperling introduces with a slideshow of Loie Fuller. She adds, at first she relented, but was encouraged that it would be a fun and unforgettable gig to choreograph and perform Loie Fuller’s butterfly dance in a “15-feet pink wings”.

Jody Sperling elegantly slicing the air with her 15-feet pink wings

In her presentation of how and why she became the founder of a modern dance company in New York City, Jody Sperling explains that it was Loie Fuller’s confidence and passion for dancing and her unique use of theatrical lighting in the 19th century that deeply inspired Sperling to follow her own dreams as a dancer and choreographer to start her own dance company, Time Lapse Dance. ( Heavily influenced by Fuller’s colorful swirls, Sperling’s choreographed performances at Time Lapse Dance mesmerized a great number of friends, family and dance lovers to help keep the twelve-year-old non-profit company running and well-funded. Jody Sperling’s slideshow transitions over to show photographs and videos of herself and her dance group performing a “re-imagined” Fuller’s Serpentine Dance by smoothly blending colors with graceful movements of silk and using mirrors to challenge the idea of symmetry. One does not have to see the dance in action to witness the flow in her choreography and her effective manipulation of the space around her, but the photographs clearly show the elegance with her every step.

Elegance, Symmetry, Balance

Usage of Mirrors

One might assume it is simply a dance of waving fabric around, but Jody Sperling explains it is in actuality a difficult form and requires a lot of patience, coordination and practice. Although it is of silk material, the costume is heavy, especially to be propped up at 5-feet further from her regular wingspan, Sperling continues, backing up with physics concepts of torque. It is a beautiful concept of dance form, integrating all principles of visual art: movement, unity, harmony, variety, balance, contrast, proportion, and rhythm/pattern. To create a harmonious colorful-themed Loie Fuller inspired choreography for numerous dancers on stage to be performed to music is a talent Jody Sperling has, and she shared with us a glimpse of exactly that.

Look what I found at the 23rd St R/N/Q Train Station later that day!

| Leave a comment

Fluid Passion

As Ms Jody Sperling began her presentation to the group of thirty or so freshman, there was certain inquisitiveness as to what she would be describing and how she would “show” the audience what was being described.

Of course, there was the initial introduction. She described her educational background (BA from Wesleyan ‘92 and MA from NYU ’96. She described her interest in dance, choreography, and art history. There was the description of the dances she has been a part of, choreographed, and studied. However, it was shocking to see that the main point of her discussion was not her career or her awards, but rather her interest in one of the greats in dance history, Loie Fuller.

When it came to Fuller, the audience could observe the passion and the knowledge Jody Sperling spoke. The knowledge was expected. The passion however was above and beyond what was expected. She provided a full biography of Loie Fuller, along with a slideshow of her life. To show the audience the prominence of dancers such as Loie Fuller, Ms Sperling asked a question that definitely sparked some interest. She asked whether or anyone watched Friends, the popular sitcom. After most of the class raised its hands, she went on to explain how one of the rooms in the show had a poster of Loie Fuller in it. This shows how artistic culture has permeated today’s pop culture,

At one point, there was a picture which showed Fuller dressed as a man, during her childhood. According to Ms Sperling, Loie Fuller had to constantly contend with gender discrimination and performance houses not meeting her requests as a performer. The discovery of the serpentine dance was “revolutionary”. She commented on how different this performance type was than what Fuller did later in her career and spoke about Fuller with extreme reverence, at one point calling her a “fearless innovator” and revealing performing the serpentine dance was a great moment for her, professionally and personally. Here is one of her renditions of the dance. (Courtesy Joyce Theater)

Ms Sperling went into great detail into the time transcending “Serpentine Dance” originally performed by Fuller. She described the dance as “vibrant” and “multi-layered”. Some of the (what seemed like) ancient images she showed were mesmerizing, as the movements, even when still, had a certain fluidity not seen in many other dance forms. The Serpentine Dance, as described, is performed with many layers of skirt clothing and constant movement. A fact that definitely captured attention was when she mentioned the amount of upper body strength needed to perform this dance. She spoke of how the elbows never come below the shoulders, and how people need to be pretty strong to do this.This proved how much talent and strength this beautiful form of dance really requires.

It must be ensured that these types of arts have to be preserved. In a shocking statement, Ms Sperling stated that Believe it or not, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs actually gives out millions more than the National Endowment for the Arts. She said the NYFA provides at times millions more than the NEA. Even though New York City is one of the most culturally and artistically prominent places in the world, there is no reason it should be outdoing the government of a country that stands for diversity and acceptance of different cultures. Companies such as Time Lapse Dance Company, founded by Sperling in 2000, have trouble competing with others for these funds. Even though it may not be economically feasible at this time for the government at this time, it must go higher on the priority list. Sure, science and technology are extremely important in their own regards, but this type of dance can be considered both an art and a science, making it that much more advantageous for today’s youth to learn about. Loie Fuller clearly influenced many talented dancers and choreographers such as Jody Sperling, and they need support from people like us and required funding in order to continue past traditions of cultural advancement.

A Still From Sperling's Own Serpentine Dance

Credit: Time Lapse Dance Company and Julie Lemberger

| Leave a comment

Loie Fuller and Jody Sperling: Innovator and Artist

As I squeezed into class, unfortunately a few minutes late, I took a seat in the back and had to take a second to realize what was going on. I was still out of breath from my run from the vertical campus to the 23rd street building. I looked to the front of the classroom and saw a woman facing the rest of us and while sharing a story with clear passion.

“America’s first modern dance…” These are the words Jody Sperling used to describe the legacy that Loie Fuller left behind. Sperling is a dancer, a historian, an entrepreneur, but most of all, she is an artist. Loie Fuller was a dancer, a visionary, but most of all, an inventor. Fuller was able to create new forms of art that affected generations to come, generations like those of Jody Sperling.

Sperling’s appreciation for dance and for Fuller was heard throughout the entire presentation and clearly showed the impact that Fuller had on Sperling’s career. Sperling traced Fuller’s life from the tavern she was born in, to the endless career travels, to her unfortunate death in the late 1920’s. The anger in her voice grabbed my attention when she discussed the producers and “husband” that wronged Loie Fuller. Sperling made it clear to the class as a whole, that many largely popular dance forms of the 20th century had traces that eventually led back to Loie Fuller. It was as if Sperling were protecting her own kin.

credits to

Fuller herself was an incredible woman who went on to accomplish incredible things. From the moment she was born in the back of a tavern, her life was already interesting. Originally a successful burlesque dancer, Fuller knew that her passion lied elsewhere. She created the Serpentine Dance and immediately started climbing the ladder. She vibrantly used extensive yards of silk fabric, making it seem as if she “had a million folds [for] every one yard.” Her career eventually led her to Paris and many obstacles had her traveling back and forth, between the states and Europe. Her success attracted the attention of copycats and placed a big problem. But Fuller decided to push the envelope further by developing patented techniques to use light from different angles of the theatre and phase it into her dance. She served as the prime example of someone who could fight with great obstacles and still accomplish great feats.

credits to

Today Jody Sperling does a great job of shedding light on Fuller’s career and its modern day impact. Sperling herself has gone on to found the Time Lapse Dance Company, produce dance shows, and wear all the hats of a contemporary artist. She discusses the effort required to raise funds for productions and all the means that one must consider, from fundraisers, to grants, to simple email lists. The presentation culminated on a note where Sperling made it evident that the arts industry was difficult and challenging, yet one where true passion, dedication and commitment would yield positive results.

Fuller is a great source of inspiration for Sperling, to the point that Sperling performed one of Fuller’s butterfly pieces in the Library of Congress. Sperling lightly joked of the difficulty in hoisting up two remarkably long poles on her arms and then swaying them as to convey the same beauty that Loie Fuller discovered. The presentation had me wishing I was alive in the era to see the beauty of Loie Fuller’s dances and her innovative use of fabric and light.

Source: Jody Sperling Publications

| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Shifting Forms

Many choreographers look at the past when they are searching for inspiration; Loie Fuller became Jody Sperling’s inspiration. This was surprising because the Serpentine Dance, developed by Loie Fuller, is a very modern form of dance. This was a learning experience for me because I have never heard of this form of dance. She had presented Fuller’s background and the development of the dance with a sense of excitement and familiarity.

She was able to describe various aspects of Fuller’s performance, from costume to effects. It turns out that the skirts worn by Fuller were made from layers upon layers of silk. Though burdened by the weight of the cloth, she was able to move swiftly to the rhythm of the music. Not only is the Serpentine Dance innovative, the colors projected onto her skirt were constantly changing. This creates an additional effect on top of the spiraling patterns from the movement of the skirt. Sperling explained that filmmakers had to paint each shot when they broadcasted Fuller’s performances during the black-and-white film era.

Jody Sperling

Sperling’s passion for dancing the Serpentine Dance was even more evident when she played recordings of her performances. Her explanations of each setting proved that she is experienced in this field. In one of her videos, she explained that she had to stand on a platform with various-colored light inside, so that the same effect can be replicated. From her videos, one can observe that Sperling has incorporated the basic elements of Fuller’s Serpentine Dance into her own, creating a new style. In the video’s shown, Fuller’s original version of the dance was paced quicker, while Sperling’s choreography were more elegant. Nonetheless, this presentation has taught me that it can be difficult for this form of dancing to gain the audience’s approval.

Not only is Sperling a choreographer and dancer, but she is also an entrepreneur. As the owner of Time Lapse Dance, she has various fundraising plans to earn money for performances of this form of dance, such as wine-tasting events. As she explained during her presentation, many dancers want to own a company and perform, but it is difficult to maintain and continuously apply for dance funds. From Jody Sperling, I learned that with passion came dedication and determination.

| Leave a comment

Jody Sperling: Revivalist of a Golden Age of Dance

Jody Sperling’s time-lapse dance is sensationally redolent of the golden age of dance. With costumes that extend the physiological boundaries of a human body, time-lapse dancers create the illusion of incessant metamorphosis in imitation of nature’s ever changing forces. Just as passionate and remarkable as her choreography, Jody Sperling stands out as a unique artist in New York City.

My Arts in New York class recently had the pleasure of meeting Jody Sperling. With a humble air, she presented the origins of her creative art form.  Standing before the classroom, Sperling looked no different from us, with the exception of maturity. We could not have imagined just how brilliant this woman was, yet it was evident that she was someone special. Her quick body moved about the room with a confidence and satisfaction that can only be derived from the fulfillment of a life-long passion.

As Sperling began to speak, her love for dance became more and more apparent. With gleaming eyes, she informed us that time-lapse dance grew from the seeds of serpentine dance, which were sowed by Loie Fuller in the late 19th century. Taking ideas from skirt dancing, Loie Fuller made her costumes more elaborate by adding hundreds of feet of white fabric. In dance, her body would become completely enshrouded by her moving dress. According to Sperling, Fuller’s costume would become a blank canvas onto which vibrant colors and patterns were projected with a magic lantern. These colors would become alive upon Fuller’s dancing body. Still amazed at this concept, Sperling described how Fuller would contort her long sleeved dress to resemble the fluttering wings of a butterfly. Besides admiring Fuller’s ingenuity, Sperling commented on the pure nature of the dance. Unlike the popular Vaudeville performances of the time, serpentine dance was acceptable for all age groups to enjoy. First achieving fame in France, Loie Fuller mesmerized her Parisian audience with her angelic form of dance. Her ideas have spun, leaped, and twirled through the century, finding a home today within the work of Jody Sperling.

Enthralled by the impact of the serpentine dance in the past, Jody Sperling has revitalized this dance form by fitting it into a modern context. Writing in the Dance Magazine to describe Fuller’s work and compare it to her own, Sperling states “In a full circle of technology, my recreation of Ballet of Light uses projections to simulate the effects that Fuller created, more magically, with lanterns. If you look between the pixels, maybe you’ll find Fuller’s ghost”. It was essential for Sperling to keep Fuller’s technique. Adding elements of experimental dance and modern technology, Sperling created her own form of art that appeals to the present-day audience.

To describe the dance is one thing, but to witness it is another. Jody Sperling and her dancers beautifully spin, with their arms in motion, creating marvelous patterns of fabric in the air.  Keen on perfecting her work, Sperling admits that the hardest part of dance is for the dancers to synchronize their movements. However, once the dancers all establish pace, they gain a uniform elegance. Spinning for minutes on end isn’t difficult, she says, because it’s a natural movement.  Just as we feel still on the revolving Earth, the dancers find balance in their spinning.

Jody Sperling has a contagious enthusiasm for her work. Not only does the harmonizing of music, dance, fabrics, and lighting all create an ethereal spectacle for her audience, it also creates a sense of balance within herself. Sperling is an artist, but more importantly, a revivalist of history.

Jody Sperling in time-lapse dance. Photograph provided by

| Leave a comment

Choreographer, Dancer, & Historian

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and historian. She attended the renowned Joffery Ballet School in New York as a child. She went on to receive her Bachelors from Wesleyan College in ’92 and her Masters in Performance Studies from New York University in ’96. She was fascinated with avant-garde style as well as the social history of dance.

Loie Fuller and skirt dancing is Jody Sperling’s source of inspiration. She describes Fuller as a “fearless innovator, both technological and scientific”. She is “one of the mother’s of modern dance”. She goes on to explain how Fuller was born next to the fire in a tavern and how as a child, she ironically gave talks in the Temperance movement.

Kate Vaugn developed the concept of “skirt dancing” in London. Loie Fuller, according to most historians, learned the “skirt dance” in London at the Gaiety Theater. Fuller adapted the generic “skirt dance” into her own form called the “serpentine dance”. Unlike the 1880’s Burlesque style, the serpentine dance focused on the shape of the movement, not the body. In skirt dancing, the body was obscured by the ruffles and folds of the fabric. Loie Fuller had her 1st success performing her “serpentine dance” in New York. Unfortunately her art had no legal protection and therefore many imitators began to copy her unique style. Fuller left the United States for Paris, where her performance was viewed as revolutionary. She used cutouts within the stage to allow light from below to illuminate the stage and the dancer. She was the first to project images on herself and her costume. She also made her own set and scenery. Unfortunately, the photography of the time was unable to capture Fuller’s innovations.
Jody Sperling took much of her inspiration from Loie Fuller, herself. She employs the mixing of colors and shades to create something new. She describes using a green light from the west and a blue light from the east to create a blending of color on the skirt’s fabric. The folds are illuminated in blends of blue and green. In describing her use of Loie Fuller as a model, Sperling states, “People sometimes say what I do is “reconstruction” and that is wrong. I use the word “re-imagination”

One of Sperling’s dances, she named, “Turbulence”. She explains how the fabric shows the movement and body’s wake. More specifically, she tells of how as we move we displace the air around us just as we would if we were in water. The fabric captures the displacement of the air that our movement creates.
Just as in Sufism, Sperling explains how in spinning we find a calmness and stillness. The constant movement becomes a “new normal” for us, and we learn to take comfort in its steadfastness.
Sperling’s newest piece is called “Ghost”. In one of the sections she recounts, “I wear a bodysuit with LEDs on it that I can trigger manually in performance. It was quite a feat to rig this up, but it’s fun to improvise the lights in relation to the pauses in the music. This concept was inspired by an act from 1893.”
In summary, Jody Sperling, as a multi-faceted artist and historian, continues to innovate in the fields of dance, lighting, technology, and costumes.

Sources: (Youtube &

| Leave a comment

A Well Choreographed Presentation

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and dance historian. She is the founder of the Time Lapse Dance Company and has produced her own shows. She also proved to be an expert on Loie Fuller by giving a presentation on her, showing the historian element in her repertoire of talents. As she came to give her presentation, her passion for the dance was very evident. She was excited, and delivered the media presentation with enthusiasm for her work. Though the topic of modern dance, its evolution and Loie Fuller may seem distant from the crowd of college students she was presenting to, she tried to relate to us. She shared the fact that a poster advertising a dance that Fuller was in was used as a prop in “Friends,” a show many of us have seen. It was creative information that I found enjoyable because I had that “a-ha!” moment of realization when I knew what poster she was talking about.

Her presentation on Fuller was very informative. Fuller had a huge part in creating modern dance and she revolutionized the skirt dance. She made the focus more about the dress and fabric rather than the body of the dancer. She performed in white dresses with long sleeves of silk and held long sticks to extend the sleeves. This way when the dancers turned and moved, the extra fabric would turn around the dancer, creating an eye catching silk vortex. Fuller also developed the Serpentine Dance. This new dance was like an evolved form of the older skirt dance, but with stage light cast onto the skirts and fabrics at different angles. At first, the dance was not appreciated, but Fuller moved to France where she was able to impress crowds with her new technique. The combination of the spinning fabric and lights around a dancer attracted audiences and the dance became popular.

Photo Credits to Wikipedia

Jody Sperling went on to show us a portion of one of her own dances, Dance of the Elements. She did both the choreography and the dancing for this dance, which represents the elements like water and fire. Her spinning movements created a sense of timelessness that mesmerized me and probably any other viewer. Her motions and the colored lights that matched the elemental dance (a blue-ish glow for water for example) made it so that time was still and all you could focus on were the shapes and patterns that the spinning fabrics made. The changing piano music in the background I thought complimented her elemental movements and the feel of the dance perfectly.

Photo Credit to Joyce Soho/Copyright Nan Melville

Fundraising is key to any performance. Sperling shared with us that in order to get her company out there and known, she produced shows. But in order to do that, she needed to fundraise. She reached out to many different people, especially family and friends, for money that would help put on her first production. The American system makes it very hard for dancers and other artists because everyone is competing for a limited amount of public funds. Corporate funds have dwindled and this discourages people from the arts. However, there was hope. She told us that the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs gave more money to arts and productions than the national program did. In our economic times, it was reassuring to hear that NYC still supported the arts, since they are usually the first programs to be cut. I know that back in my high school and in my sister’s school, cutting back on dance and arts residencies was the first thing the schools did when their budgets were cut. But I appreciated those programs when I had them and it is uplifting to see the city still supporting them. It is even better to see that Jody Sperling and her company continue to fundraise and work with their budget, producing great works that many viewers, including myself enjoy.

| Leave a comment

Jody Sperling and Loie Fuller

Back in the 1800’s the technology to create a moving picture was still in the primitive form. The frame rate was slow and there was no color. To counter this, certain people would take footage and literally hand paint each frame to give color. Apparently, the Lumière Brothers were one of the groups who did this. And of course they would only take important motion pictures to work on. Supposedly one of the colorings that they did was of Loie Fuller in 1896.

However some historians have doubts about the true identities of the dancers. Jody Sperling is one of these historians who has an extensive knowledge on dances like these. Sperling is also a choreographer and a dancer; she is passionate about her work on stage and off. She formed her own dance company aptly named “Time Lapse Dance” due to the heavy influence from past dancers and magnificent styles. Here is a link to their website It is a non-profit organization so one can imagine how tough it is to maintain. Much of money that keeps the company running is from donations. Donations can be hard to come by in this day in age, so a certain strategy is used by Sperling and fellow members of the company is to use a network. Sperling asks people she knows for donations, and then those people ask more people… so on and so forth. Using a network like this is savvy and practical, which is one of the reasons she has managed to maintain and operate her entity.

Now, onto the art of the dance.

By: Cliff

Loie Fuller is famous for the dance called the ‘Serpentine Dance.’ Fuller developed this type of art due to the receptiveness of the audience. She uses copious amounts of fabric to spin around. After more development in the art, she used colored lights to point at herself to give awesome illusions of movement and stillness as Jody Sperling described. She is very knowledgeable about the art because she performs it herself. She was even asked to perform at the Library of Congress, which is a huge accomplishment.

Sperling uses certain props and a number of dancers in her version of the art. She showed us a certain video in which the dancers used mirrors and spectacular lights to portray an amazing sense of movement and the flow of choreography and ribboning fabric. Fuller developed a system of lighting that, while effective, was still primitive technology. Sperling has the advantage of using 21st century technology in her art, which elevates it to a new level.

The appreciation for real art is lacking in the world today. So much of the world today is caught up in the mundane reality of the Internet and mindless behaviors. The youth of today is staying in and wasting away on the Internet and other technologies of our age rather than going out and experiencing the world that surrounds them. Hopefully the inspiration that Jody Sperling found with the art of Loie Fuller can be shared with the youth of today to keep art alive in America. Even if people do not particularly get involved in the art of the ‘Serpentine Dance,’ just learning about it can spark an idea. And all Loie Fuller started out with was an idea; and now, she’s a legend.

| Leave a comment

Jody Sperling: Dancing the History

Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and art historian. She has performed all over the world. As someone who is knowledgeable in all dances, she decided to talk to us about serpentine dance and a certain Loie Fuller.

I looked around the class and everyone had confusion painted on their face. This discussion was going downhill until Ms. Sperling brought in pop culture.

“How many of you watch Friends?” Sperling asked.

The entire class woke up. Everyone who is anyone has seen Friends. Even though it ended eight years ago, people (including me) still watch reruns and enjoy them. Apparently there was a poster of Loie Fuller in the rooms of one of the characters. I was shocked; so much so that when I came home, I tried to find the episode with the poster.

Look at the poster all the way to the right!

Sperling gave us a brief biography of Loie Fuller. Loie was born in a tavern because it was the only place in the entire village with heat. Through the use of pictures, the audience sees how she changed. Eventually, Loie moved to Europe to pursue her career in performing arts.

It has been rumored that Loie discovered serpentine dancing accidentally. During one performance in Quack M.D., Loie saw that the audience liked the way skirt moved with the light. From there on, she kept developing this style. One way was that she made the skirts bigger and bigger. Another way was that she synchronized her movements with lighting, which was harder back then because humans operated it.

Jody Sperling doesn’t speak of serpentine dance as a historian, but instead as a fellow dancer. She told us that for a celebration at the Library of Congress, she performed a serpentine dance piece. She told us how difficult it was. It’s not easy to carry the skirt around. I thought that one needs to carry the skirt with their hands, but really they are holding on to the poles that make the skirt move. There must be a balance of weight when the poles are being held. If one hand is lower, the dance can’t be done properly.

At first, it was difficult to picture serpentine dancing in my mind. When Jody Sperling showed us a video of a 1890s dancer performing the dance, it was just a lady twirling her skirt around and no sound. It’s not Jody Sperling’s fault considering that movies back then didn’t have any sound. It wasn’t until Sperling showed her performance at Library of Congress that I saw how music and light plays a vital role. Without it, all you have a woman swinging her skirt around. Another disappointing thing is that there are no videos of Loie Fuller dancing! There are only pictures of her. It would’ve been nice to see dancing and comparing her movements to other dancers who performed the serpentine dance. Maybe that is why Loie Fuller has mesmerized the dancing community. Today, no primary sources exist of Loie’s performances. This mystery teases art historians and makes them want to learn more about her. It is not just in arts, but also all throughout human nature. We are all attracted to mysteries whether it is the Bermuda Triangle or D.B. Cooper.

Jody Sperling ends on a political note. She compares the American Arts programs to that of Europe. In Europe, the state subsidizes a lot of it, while in America, as she says, “makes it unfair for all.” An interesting fact that she pointed out is that the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs gave out more money than the National Endowment for the Arts. How one city can give more money to its art programs than an entire nation is astonishing. To know that NYC can find funding for art programs is remarkable. Especially with this mood in Washington where politicians are screaming for spending cuts and art/music programs tend to be the first programs to be cut. Overall, Jody Sperling talking to us was a lively and enjoyable experience.

Jody Sperling



| Leave a comment

A Woman of Many “Elements”

Jody Sperling has been managing her own dance company for just over a decade now.  While this may not seem like such a long period of time, Sperling has still managed to compile quite a resume.  As a scholar of dance, she has earned various dance degrees and has been recognized recently as a dance historian.  In 2000, Sperling founded her own dance company, “Time Lapse Dance.” By creating her own company, Jody has now found a way to continue pursuing her passions as a dancer and a choreographer.  When viewing these accomplishments and feats of Sperling, one might begin to wonder what sparked this fire within her.

Photo Credit: Alexandre Fuchs/Time Lapse Dance

When asked about her inspiration, Jody Sperling points to one of the most influential dancers in history: Loie Fuller.  Born in 1862, she began dancing at a very young age.  Fuller is credited with “spawning” modern dance today with her uniquely developed dances.  As a young woman, she performed in white dresses with long sleeves made of silk.  With long sticks holding her sleeves up, Loie would then spin and twirl to make her dress appear to be changing form.  Her unorthodox style of dance was known as the “Skirt Dance,” or the “Butterfly Dance.” Loie Fuller revolutionized dance during her time because she placed emphasis on the dress, not on the body.

At first take, Fuller was not the most successful at marketing her unique style of dance.  She did not achieve public renown until she took her talents to France.  While in France, her technique of skirt dancing was stolen, and she tried to file a lawsuit.  Although she did not win her suit, she was fortunate enough to upstage the imposters who stole her original dance.  From here, Fuller’s career took flight, and she set the foundation for skirt dancing today.

Jody took her inspiration’s work and added her own little twist to it.  She spent the early part of her choreographing career further developing the “Serpentine Dance” of Loie Fuller.  In addition, she shed light on Fuller’s work by adding mirrors and colored lights, which provided the base for Jody’s “Dance of the Elements.”  For her dance, she conceived a spinning technique that keeps the fabric going for an extended period of time.  Jody stated how the elongated spinning “produces a new stillness,” one that peeks the curiosity of the audience.  As her career continued to flourish, Jody was invited to perform her dance in the Library of Congress.

Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger/Time Lapse Dance

But with all great success comes a sense of determination to overcome challenges along the way.  Jody Sperling founded her own company and produced her own shows, but how did she get her companies’ name out in the open?  A woman of many professions, she considers herself an “entrepreneur.”  Fundraising is essential to obtain the necessary money for shows.  Jody describes the difficulty in finding public funding, and she says, “Corporate funding has almost disappeared.”  Despite her economic struggles, Sperling persevered, and her company survived thanks to donations from family and friends.  While listening to her presentation, one can feel her passion for dancing through the struggles she encountered as an aspiring choreographer.  She leaves people with this idea that they, too, should find their own passion and run with it regardless of life’s obstacles.

| Leave a comment

In the Spotlight

A series of close-up, 360° views of guest artists and speakers. The goal here is to weave together direct quotes and background information about their lives and work to create  vibrant portraits. Let us see them, hear them, understand what makes them tick!

| Leave a comment