Rhythm of pup­peteers

The move­ments of pup­peteers in­spire a dance by Ger­man chore­og­ra­pher Paula Rosolen.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Arts - By TER­ENCE TOH star2@thes­tar.com.my

GER­MAN chore­og­ra­pher Paula Rosolen’s dance piece Pup­pets is not your av­er­age pup­pet the­atre show.

Pup­pets, which is in­spired by pup­peteers at work, en­cour­ages view­ers to re­con­sider our per­cep­tions on artistry and ex­pres­sion. This dance show cen­tres on the chore­o­graphic pat­terns that emerge from the move­ments of a pup­peteer. The show will be per­formed at the Da­mansara Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre (DPac) on July 12 and 13 as part of this year’s DPac Arts Fes­ti­val.

This third edi­tion of the fes­ti­val is themed Con­ver­gence, fea­tur­ing a pro­gramme filled by the­atre, dance and mu­sic.

“Dancers al­ways look to pup­pets as an ideal for move­ment. In kabuki, for in­stance, there are mo­ments where the skill is for an ac­tor to im­i­tate the move­ment of a pup­pet. For me, it was in­ter­est­ing to look the op­po­site way. What if I showed what most peo­ple we do not see? What es­capes our at­ten­tion?” says Rosolen dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view in Petaling Jaya.

The tall, red-headed chore­og­ra­pher Rosolen has been fas­ci­nated in find­ing the mag­i­cal in the mun­dane. Her 2013 work Pi­ano Men took in­spi­ra­tion from the pi­anists that wrote mu­sic for bal­let ses­sions. The move­ments in her Aer­o­bics! A Bal­let In Three Acts (2015), which won first prize at the French Dance Elegie com­pe­ti­tion, were based on the Jane Fonda-style ex­er­cise videos of the 1980s.

Rosolen, orig­i­nally from Ar­gentina, stud­ied dance at the Univer­sity of Mu­sic and Per­form­ing Arts in Frankfurt (where she now is based) and also com­pleted a Master’s De­gree in chore­og­ra­phy at the Jus­tus Liebig Univer­sity in Giessen.

Her chore­o­graphic work of­ten blurs the bor­ders be­tween dance, per­for­mance, mu­sic and the­atre.

“Dance is not a ma­te­rial thing. You can’t grasp it in your hand, or hang it on a wall. But I en­joy mak­ing vi­su­als, com­bin­ing ideas, cre­at­ing vi­su­als, play­ing with dy­nam­ics, and plac­ing it on stage,” says Rosolen.

“It changes with the mo­ment. Take Pup­pets, which I de­vel­oped in Ger­many, and is com­ing here. The work ex­ists, but is im­ma­te­rial, so we are recre­at­ing it here, with dif­fer­ent bod­ies, new mu­si­cians. We can develop it far­ther. And you don’t have this with other art forms.”

Pup­pets ab­sorbs el­e­ments from var­i­ous pup­pet styles, such as hand pup­petry and the Ja­panese bun­raku style. This is the first time her work will be per­formed in Asia.

The dance will fea­ture two lo­cal dancers (Lee Ren Xin and Lim Pei Ern) as well as Rosolen’s dancers from Ja­pan, France and Ser­bia. The score, com­posed by David Mor­row, will be per­formed on var­i­ous in­stru­ments, in­clud­ing a Hurdy-Gurdy, a Medieval in­stru­ment that was of­ten used by wan­der­ing pup­peteers.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to my first ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with Malaysian dancers, be­cause I be­lieve it will be en­rich­ing for both sides,” says Rosolen.

In cre­at­ing move­ments for Pup­pets, Rosolen also drew in­spi­ra­tion from lion and dragon dances. She spent last year in Malaysia with artist JM Fiebelkorn, ex­am­in­ing how these cul­tural per­form­ers ma­nip­u­lated their props and cos­tumes as they moved.

“I watched re­hearsals of two dif­fer­ent lion dance groups, one in Kuala Lumpur, the other in Penang. I prac­tised a lit­tle bit with them, and learnt the spirit, the move­ment of it. I stylised it, tried to take el­e­ments of it, and tried to put it on stage, with­out the lion (cos­tume). Made it into a new choroeg­ra­phy,” says Rosolen.

“I also stud­ied lion dance in Ja­pan. It’s very dif­fer­ent from the one here, which uses a lot of rhyth­mi­cal ac­ro­bat­ics.”

Rosolen hopes Pup­pets will en­cour­age view­ers to look at the world with new eyes.

“I’m not giv­ing any an­swers to the au­di­ence. I’m giv­ing a frame to them to be able to see things for them­selves. It’s not my job to give them a mes­sage or les­son. But I hope a new per­cep­tion to be trig­gered, and they’ll be able to see some­thing dif­fer­ent,” she says.

Pup­pets is on at the DPac Arts Fes­ti­val at H-01, DPac, Em­pire Da­mansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Da­mansara Per­dana, Petaling Jaya in Se­lan­gor on July 12 and 13. Tick­ets are RM50 (for DPac card mem­bers) and RM65 (non-mem­bers). Visit: www.dpac.com.my.

— JORG BAU­MANN

Pup­pets is a dance chore­ographed by Paula Rosolen based on the of­ten ig­nored move­ments of pup­peteers.

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