There are so many “Serpentine Dances” from the early days of cinema, it can be hard to tell which one you’re looking at. This one, identified by the Library of Congress, is distinctive enough that I can be sure I haven’t reviewed it before.
As described by the LoC: “A woman in a white gown performs a skirt dance, using her arms to produce circles and other patterns within the folds of her costume. Her legs and feet appear to be bare.” It comes out of the Edison Company in 1897, by which time they’d been producing movies like these for at least three years. It appears likely that this would have been produced for the Kinetoscope – intended to be watched individually through a machine with a crank in a parlor or arcade-type setting. The fact that it can be played as an endless loop, starting from any point would be advantageous, because the proprietor didn’t have to worry if a given customer stopped it before its “ending” and the next person picked it up. The dancer is larger than Annabelle Moore, the star of many of these pictures, and we don’t see much of her body besides her face, despite the teases of bare skin that show through. The “sexy” nature of the dance would also have been a big selling point.
Director: Unknown, possibly William KL Dickson
Camera: William Heise
Starring: Crissie Sheridan
Run Time: 42 secs
You can watch it for free: here.