dance #41, the puppeteer

The Puppeteer


“And the advantage of such a puppet over living dancers?”

“The advantage? First of all, my good friend, a negative one: namely that it would be incapable of affectation. For affectation, as you know, appears when the soul (vis motrix) is located at any point other than the center of gravity of a movement. Now because, with his wires and strings, it is this very point and no other that the puppeteer controls, all remaining members are, as they should be, dead, pure pendulums, which follow the basic law of gravity — a marvelous quality, which we look for in vain in most of our dancers.

“Just observe Madame P–,” he continued, “when she plays Daphne, and pursued by Apollo looks back over her shoulder: her soul settles in the vertebrae of the small of her back; she bends over as though about to break in two, like some naiad from the school of Bernini. Observe the young dancer F– when, as Paris, he stands with the three goddesses and extends the apple to Venus: his soul (in a manner fearful to behold!) actually settles in his elbow….”

Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1814),  Excerpt from “On the Puppet Theater” (1811). From An Abyss Deep Enough: Letters of Heinrich von Kleist with a Selection of Essays and Anecdotes. Edited, Translated, and Introduced by Philip B. Miller. EP Dutton.

dance #41

1:10 a.m. A 2 minute dance in the study. A first of what I hope to be many dances to Kleist’s “On the Puppet Theatre.” Experimenting with shifting my centre of gravity. Sending my soul off kilter. Shooting hips and arms out. Hanging from imaginary threads. Arching. Releasing. Drawing affect through my tissues. I have to stop the dance midway and shush Alice who is crying insistently. She’s sitting on the desk now, watching closely as my my fingers hit the keys. It’s way past my bedtime, and she’s trying to get me into bed. This is a dance that needs to be danced again.

It’s a cool night. -5 degrees Celsius. There was more snow today.

~ by nmyers on February 1, 2009.

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