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Maud Allan

For the American film actor see Maude Allen.
Maud Allan
Maud Allan as Salomé with the head of John the Baptist.
Born Beulah Maude Durrant
(1873-08-27)27 August 1873
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Died 7 October 1956(1956-10-07) (aged 83)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality Canadian
Known for Dance & choreography
Movement Modern/Contemporary dance

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".[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Stage and dance career 2
  • Libel suit 3
  • Fiction and theatre 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
    • Published resources 6.1
    • Archival resources 6.2

Early life

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.

Stage and dance career

In 1900, in need of money, Allan is said to have illustrated an encyclopedia for women titled Illustriertes Konversations-Lexikon der Frau.[2] 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.[3]

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 toured England, with 250 performances in less than one year.[3]

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.

Libel suit

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 libel, based on the following counts:

  • The act, a separate offence, 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.[3] She died in Los Angeles, California.

Fiction and theatre

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.[4]


  1. ^ "Maud Allan". Danse Collection Danse. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c "Allan, Maud (1873-1956)". 2002. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  4. ^ "Anatomy, war and 'Salomania' at the Aurora Theatre". San Francisco Chronicle. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 

Further reading

Published resources

  • Philip Hoare, Wilde's Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy & The First World War Duckworth, (1997)
  • Felix Cherniavsky, Maud Allan and Her Art, Dance Collection Danse Presse (1998)
  • Toni Bentley, Sisters of Salome, Yale University Press, 2002
  • Wendy Buonaventura, Midnight Rose, Cinnabar Books, 2009
  • Russell James: The Maud Allan Affair, Remember When, 2009

Archival resources

  • Maud Allan Papers, 1910-1934 (1 linear foot) are housed at the Charles E. Young Research Library at the University of California Los Angeles.
  • John Henry Bradley Storrs Papers, 1847-1987 (18.4 linear feet) are housed at the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art.
  • Works by or about Maud Allan at Internet Archive
  • "The Unspeakable Crime of Maud Allen". Cherished Television.
  • Maud Allan on
  • Maud Allan on Bellydancers and Harem Girls
  • Maud Allan and Her ArtFelix Cherniavsky:
  • the most recent 'fictography' on Maud Allan, May 2008
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