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.