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Maud Allan was born in Toronto and later moved to San Francisco with her family. She became one of the most provocative dancers of the early twentieth century. Reviewers praised her supple torso, her graceful arm movements and her lyrical musicality.
In 1906, Allan premiered her most notorious choreographic work, The Vision of Salomé, in Vienna. The presentation helped to fuel a Salomé craze throughout Europe. Interpreting the biblical story of Salomé, Allan titillated audiences with her revealing costume, consisting of an ornately beaded belt over a long translucent skirt and a beaded brassiere with ruby red disks to represent her nipples. At the climax of her dance, she shocked spectators by kissing a prop representing the severed head of John the Baptist.
In 1918, Allan was scheduled to star in the first London production of Oscar Wilde's play Salomé. However, the British Conservative MP, Noël Pemberton-Billing accused Allan and the play's producer, J.T. Grein, of perversion. Allan launched a libel suit, but lost. Following the scandalous news that her schizophrenic brother Theo had been executed for the murders of two women in San Francisco in 1898, Allan's reputation was destroyed.
During her career Allan toured to Russia, the United States, Canada, South Africa, India, Asia and Australia. In 1916, she assembled a company of forty musicians, performing as The Maud Allan Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Ernest Bloch, and six supporting dancers for a tour across North America. She also starred in the silent movie The Rugmaker's Daughter (1915) and was the subject of two novels. Allan later established a dance school for impoverished children in London. During World War II, she was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Red Cross and worked in an airplane factory.
Allan, Maud. My Life and Dancing. London: Everett & Co., 1908.
Cherniavsky, Felix. Maud Allan and Her Art. Toronto: Dance Collection Danse Press/es, 1998.
---. The Salome Dancer: The Life and Times of Maud Allan. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1991.