Sunday, May 9, 2010

Your body is a puppet

It's always amazing to see how every culture finds new and wonderful ways to bring inanimate objects to life. Chack out these Japanese leg puppets.

There's a practical limitation that affects every puppeteer: You only have two hands. How can you bring to life your characters with all the detail and sophistication they deserve with only two hands to manipulate them with? The solutions to this are the root of a lot of the innovation and artistry of puppet theater.

This traditional Japanese puppet form solves the problem by bringing a bit more of the body into play. The puppeteer's legs form the trunks of the puppets' bodies, and his hands are free to slip into the sleeves of the kimono to animate the arms. Voila! You have a puppet with three actively manipulated parts. Granted, it's a bit limited what you can do with a leg while lying on your back, but still quite beautiful.

Seeing this clip reminded me of this piece by Peruvian performers Theatro Hugo & Ines.

Hugo & Ines are masters of using the human body in innovative ways to create bright, living characters. If you're planning to be in New York later this month, you can see Hugo & Ines in action on May 28th, click here for details. Unfortunately, the only way to see traditional Japanese leg puppets would be a trip to Japan, unless you make your own.

-Brad Shur
Artist in Residence

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