Maud Allan

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For the American film actor see Maude Allen.
Maud Allan
Maud Allen Salome headshot UK issue.jpg
Maud Allan as Salome, 1908
Beulah Maude Durrant or Ulah Maud Alma Durrant[1][2]

(1873-08-27)27 August 1873
Died7 October 1956(1956-10-07) (aged 83)
Known forDance and choreography
MovementModern/contemporary dance

Maud Allan (born as either Beulah Maude Durrant or Ulah Maud Alma Durrant;[1][2] 27 August 1873 – 7 October 1956) was a Canadian pianist-turned-actress, dancer and choreographer who is remembered for her "impressionistic mood settings".

Early life[edit]

Allan was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada as Beulah Maude Durrant or Ulah Maud Alma Durrant[1][2] to William Durrant, a shoemaker, and his wife, Isabella (née Hutchenson) Durrant.[3] The family emigrated to San Francisco, California in 1877 or 1879.[3]

She spent her early years in San Francisco, moving to Germany in 1895 to study piano at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. By the age of nineteen, she was teaching piano as a private music teacher. She would start her own Concert Agency. She later changed her name, prompted in part by the scandal surrounding the crimes committed by her brother, Theo, who was hanged in 1898 for the murder of two women in San Francisco. After her brother's execution, she abandoned piano-playing and found self-expression in dance.[4]

Stage and dance career[edit]

Maud Allan as Salomé with the head of John the Baptist in Vision of Salomé, 1908.

In 1900, in need of money, Allan is said to have illustrated an encyclopaedia for women, Illustriertes Konversations-Lexikon der Frau.[5] Shortly thereafter, she began dancing professionally. Tall (5'7"), athletic, and having great imagination, she had little formal dance training. She was once compared to Isadora Duncan, which enraged her as she disliked Duncan.[6]

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. That same year she toured England, giving 250 performances in under a year.[6] 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.[7][2]

Libel suit and later years[edit]

In 1918, 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:

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. The Lord Chamberlain's ban on public performances of Wilde's play was still in place in England and the Salomé dance was at risk. Her brother's crimes were also cited to suggest there was a background of sexual insanity in her family.

As suffragette[edit]

A suffragette supporter, Allan's name was given (as an alias) on arrest by a suffragette arrested near Stirling, Scotland for an attack on Prime Minister Asquith.[8]

Later years[edit]

From the 1920s, Allan taught dance and lived with her secretary and lover, Verna Aldrich.[6] She eventually settled in the Los Angeles during World War II and worked as a draughtswoman at Macdonald Aircraft. Allan died in Los Angeles in 1956, aged 83.[9][3]

Fiction and theatre[edit]

Allan's Salomé dance, the reactions to it and its significance in terms of the sexual, social and political mores of the time appear in Pat Barker's 1993 novel, The Eye in the Door, the second part of the Regeneration trilogy.[citation needed]

Allan's libel suit was the subject of a "fictography", The Maud Allan Affair (written by Russell James) as well as a stage play, Salomania (by Mark Jackson). Salomania premiered at Berkeley, California's Aurora Theatre in June 2012.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Birthname given as Ulah Maud Alma Durrant
    McConnell, Virginia A. Sympathy for the Devil: The Emmanuel Baptist Murders of Old San Francisco, University of Nebraska Press (January 1, 2005), page 294
  2. ^ a b c d "Maud Allan". Retrieved 21 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Allan, Maud". Archived from the original on 21 March 2006.
  4. ^ "Maud Allan". Danse Collection Danse. Archived from the original on 2 March 2005. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  5. ^ "Illustriertes Konversations-Lexikon der Frau". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Rapp, Linda (2002). "Allan, Maud (1873–1956)" (PDF). Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  7. ^ McConnell, Virginia A. Sympathy for the Devil: The Emmanuel Baptist Murders of Old San Francisco, University of Nebraska Press (January 1, 2005), page 294
  8. ^ Atkinson, Diane (2018). Rise Up Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes. London, UK: Bloomsbury. p. 445. ISBN 978140884404 5.
  9. ^ a b "Anatomy, war and 'Salomania' at the Aurora Theatre". San Francisco Chronicle. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]