Maud Allan's Salomé : a case study into the psychology of costume, dance and performance
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 14:56 by Dori Kwong
Maud Allan (1873-1956) was a trailblazer of modern expressionist dance and costume design who drew from her family’s tradition of shoemaking and her experience in corset making to design and construct a novel costume for her renowned and controversial performance, The Vision of Salomé (1906). She wore this costume more than 250 times to perform on the international stage, becoming one of the most successful dancers of her era from 1906 to 1925. By challenging the customs and conventions of Edwardian London through the use of her revealing costume and performance, she was also pioneering costume design, and yet scholarship to date has largely ignored the costume itself as an important material culture object. By using a material culture approach, and performing an object description and analysis of the two sets of Salomé costumes held at Dance Collection Danse in Toronto, this major research project establishes for the first time the many important innovations of Allan’s costume design techniques such as illusion mesh, pearl netting, bejeweled breastplates, eyelet hook bra fasteners and other novel details. Furthermore, I argue that scholarly object analysis used alongside theories of enclothed cognition allows us to elucidate the powerful affective link between psychology and dance costumes, further heightening our appreciation of Allan’s dance costume, while also specifying the details of her problematic appropriation of elements of Orientalism and the Femme Fatale in constructing the costume. More than a century after its creation, the aesthetic of Allan’s costume innovations continues to resonate in other dance costumes today.