Dancers must thus move like puppets if they wish to be the receptacles of spirits.
– Poh Sim Plowright: Mediums, Puppets and the Human Actor in the Theatres of the East. The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002.
Many of the traditional theatrical and dance forms of Asia have their origins in mediumistic and exorcism rituals, in which there is a clear affinity between the medium, shaman or magician and the puppet: both are intercessors between the human and spirit worlds. The puppet’s egoless nature, which places it so close to the divine, made it the perfect model upon which actors and dancers (and martial artists) patterned their movement. This intimate bond, of puppet and human actor, is not limited to traditional theatres, nor to the East; a like fascination with dolls, marionettes and puppets can be traced in the theatres of the West, notably through the work of Heinrich von Kleist, Edward Gordon Craig and Alfred Jarry. The work of Hijikata Tatsumi should be considered a strange marriage of cultures and times, his ankoku butoh consciously and freely drawing from orient and occident, from art, literature, philosophy and dance, urban and folk, with influences spanning from the twentieth century to the traditional and archaic. His choreography Three ‘Bellmers’ from A Summer Storm shows the enduring power of the puppet as a source for movement. The complete choreography can be seen below, the ‘Bellmers’ can be seen from 55:25.
The puppet will be the focus for the exercises in my forthcoming workshop for the Occult Conference: The god in the body. We will begin with a warm up and then proceed to explore the the possibilities of ‘egoless’ movement, as pure dance and as a means to enter a state of kenosis; deepening awareness of the dynamic, ever shifting sensory realm through proprioceptive and kinæsthetic sensitivity; and extending consciousness to specific loci both within and outside the body.
One of the aims of the workshop is to enable participants to experience thinking and communicating directly in movement, rather than transcribing premeditated thought into movement.
Image Hans Bellmer, La Poupée, 1934.