Amazing Photos of The Salomé Dancer: Maud Allan

Canadian pianist-turned-actor, dancer and choreographer Maud Allan (1873 – 1956) was born as Beulah Maude Durrant. She spent her early years in San Francisco, California, moving to Germany in 1895 to study piano at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. She changed her name in part by the scandal surrounding her brother Theodore Durrant, who was hanged in 1898 for murder. Allan never recuperated from the trauma of this event. She abandoned piano-playing and developed a new means of self-expression through dance.

Shortly before she began dancing professionally Allan is said to have illustrated an encyclopedia for women titled Illustriertes Konversations-Lexikon der Frau.

In 1906 her production “Vision of Salomé” opened in Vienna. Based loosely on Oscar Wilde’s play ,Salomé, her version of the Dance of the Seven Veils became famous (and to some notorious) and she was billed as “The Salomé Dancer”. Her book My Life and Dancing was published in 1908 and that year she took England by storm in a tour in which she did 250 performances in less than one year.

Allan is remembered for her “famously impressionistic mood settings”. She was athletic, had great imagination and even designed  and sewed her own costumes. But she had little formal dance training. She was once compared to professional dancer and legend Isadora Duncan, which greatly enraged her, as she disliked Duncan.

Around 1918 Allan’s popularity began to take a turn. In a hope of earning back some of her public adoration she starred in a private performance of the ‘Vision of Salome’ and irked homophobic right-wing nationalist MP Noel Pemberton Billing. Mr Billing wanted Allan’s downfall as there was a rumor circulating that she had a lesbian affair with Margot Asquith, the wife of former prime minister Herbert Asquith. He believed that Allan and the Asquiths were all German spies; which he implied in an article. Allan sued Billing for criminal libel, but she lost the case.

Hence, from the 1920s on Allan taught dance and she lived with her secretary and lover, Verna Aldrich. She died in Los Angeles, California.

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Maud Allan ca. 1906

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Maud Allan as Salome c.1906

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Maud Allan as Salome c.1906

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Maud Allan as Salome c.1906

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NPG x83002; Maud Allan by Bassano

Maud Allan 1913 by Bassano

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Maud Allan by Reutlinger 1909

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