She was born as Beulah Maude Durrant in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Sources give contradictory dates for her year of birth, ranging from 1873 through 1880. 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 later changed her name, prompted in part by the scandal surrounding her brother Theodore Durrant, who was hanged in 1898 for the sensational murder of two women in San Francisco. Allan never recuperated from the trauma of this event which had an effect on her for the rest of her life. The execution was immediately followed by her abandonment of piano-playing and the development of a new means of self-expression in dance.
In 1900, in need of money, Allan is said to have illustrated an encyclopedia for women titled Illustriertes Konversations-Lexikon der Frau. Shortly thereafter, she began dancing professionally. Although athletic, and having great imagination, 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.
She designed and often sewed her own costumes, which were creative. 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.
In 1910, she left Europe to travel. Over the next five years she visited the United States, Australia, Africa, and Asia. In 1915 she starred as "Demetra" in the silent film, The Rug Maker's Daughter.
Maud Allan as Salomé with the head of John the Baptist
Maud Allan (27 August 1873 – 7 October 1956) was a pianist-turned-actor, dancer and choreographer who is remembered for her "famously impressionistic mood settings". Allan's libel suit is the subject of a "fictography" The Maud Allan Affair by Russell James and a stage play Salomania by Mark Jackson which premiered at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley, CA in June, 2012. From the 1920s on Allan taught dance and she lived with her secretary and lover, Verna Aldrich. She died in Los Angeles, CA.
In 1918 the British MP Noel Pemberton Billing, in his own journal, Vigilante, published an article, "The Cult of the Clitoris" which implied that Allan, then appearing in her Vision of Salome, was a lesbian associate of German wartime conspirators.
Allan sued Billing for criminal libel, based on the following counts:
The act of publishing a defamatory article about Maud Allan and J. T. Grein, her impresario.
The act, a separate offense, of including obscenities within the article.
This led to a sensational court case, at which Billing represented himself. Lord Alfred Douglas also testified in Billing's favour. Allan lost the case. The trial became entangled in obscenity charges brought forth by the state against the performance given by Allan in her dance. She was accused of practising many of the sexually charged acts depicted (or implied) in Wilde's writings herself, including necrophilia.
At this time, the Lord Chamberlain's ban on public performances of Wilde's play was still in place in England, and thus the Salomé dance was at risk. Her brother's crimes were also dredged up to suggest there was a background of sexual insanity in her family.
From the 1920s on Allan taught dance and she lived with her secretary and lover, Verna Aldrich. She died in Los Angeles, California.
Allan's Salomé dance, the reactions to it, and its significance in terms of the sexual, social and political mores of the time are referenced in Pat Barker's 1993 novel The Eye in the Door, the second part of the Regeneration trilogy.
Allan's libel suit is the subject of a "fictography" The Maud Allan Affair by Russell James and a stage play Salomania by Mark Jackson which premiered at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley, CA in June, 2012.
The Maud Allan Affair by Russell James
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Remember When (December 2008)
Amazon: The Maud Allan Affair
Amazon Kindle: The Maud Allan Affair
Maud Allan, the famous exotic dancer was destroyed by the infamous libel trial brought by charismatic M.P. and pilot, Noel Pemberton-Billing. In this wonderfully written book, Russell James charts her rise and fall from the days when she saved the 1908 London Olympics from failure to the outrageous miscarriage of justice of her trial which knocked the dark days of the First World War off the front pages of the national newspapers. In his gripping narrative, Russell seamlessly moves from the days when Maud was courted by society to the end when her friends, apart from former PM's wife, Margot Asquith, shunned her in case they, too, were labeled as sexual deviants. The trial was based on the existence of the notorious (and fictional?). German black book and its list of 47,000 sexually depraved people who could be used by the Germans to defeat the British in War. Names included Herbert and Margot Asquith and the judge himself. Maud did not stand a chance.
A fantastic read brought out in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics which will be looking ahead to the next London Olympics, in four years' time.
More Real Life Romances at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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