This is one of my favorite films of all time…
Danse Serpentine by the Lumière Brothers (Auguste and Louis) (1896)
Courtesy of Ubu
The Serpentine is an evolution of the skirt dance, a form of burlesque that had recently arrived in the United States from England. Skirt dancing was itself a reaction against academic forms of ballet, incorporating tamed-down versions of folk and popular dances like the can-can. The new dance was originated by Loïe Fuller, who gave varying accounts of how she developed it.
The Serpentine Dance was a frequent subject of early motion pictures, as it highlighted the new medium’s ability to portray movement and light. Two particularly well-known versions were Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1894) (shown below), a performance by Broadway dancer Annabelle Whitford from Edison Studios, and a Lumière brothers film made in 1896 (shown above).