Performing Puppets

Do you remember playing with hand puppets when you were a child? Did your parents purchase a puppet or did your mother show you how to make one?

A puppet can be created on a stick, or one finger of your hand. A sock pocket can be created with a lonely sock which has been left behind by a runaway partner. Or fingers can be folded into a slightly closed fist, draw a set of lips and eyes and it is puppet ready. Add a voice to your character supported by a script to tell a story and the show is now live.

These three simple methods of making puppets have existed and entertained children and adults for many decades. Puppets are fun as they challenge our creativity, imagination, and arts and crafts skills.

What is a puppet?

It is an object made from wood, paper, cloth, saw dust, straw, cotton, and other materials which can be shaped to represent a person, an animal, or an object. The puppeteer brings a puppet to life by moving its flexible parts his or her hand, strings, rods, or mechanical and electronic methods.

Nine Types of Puppets:

Finger – Simple painting on one finger which very young children enjoy.
Sock Barr Tillstrom introduced puppets Kukla, Fran, and Ollie… Then Shari Lewis with Lamb Chop.
Marionette (operated with strings) Ronnie Burkett and his marionettes, and Howdy Doody created by Buffalo Bob Smith.
Ventriloquist: Edgar Bergen and character Charlie McCarthy. World famous today is Jeff Dunham with his latest dummy called Achmed the Terrorist.
Body Puppet: The famous and popular play, The Lion King by Julie Taymor, is a great example of people being in the characters and operating the mechanisms to activate the puppets into action.
Mechanical puppets: The use of small or miniature machines to operate individual parts of the puppet or doll.
Pull string puppet: Dolls and puppets which work by pulling a string. The most popular version of a pull string is baby dolls which speak when the string is pulled. Words like “I love you” are spoken or it could be an animal making sounds or speaking. Pulling strings Moves the mouth, arms, and head.
Rod puppet: A singular rod holds the head or body of the puppet upright or rods may be attached to hands or arms to create movement. The Muppet Show introduced Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy. Sesame Street introduced Cookie Monster.
Shadow puppet: These are shadows of puppets which are created by shining a light onto a clear screen. Children have all experienced shadow puppets. Place your hands in front of a light source and see the shadow images cast against the wall. I bet you never knew these are puppet images.

Most puppet operators are shy individuals, but behind a mask, they are very confident and make excellent entertainers. The mask in this instance is the puppet which is the target for attention and exposure from the audience.

The Traditional Dance Forms of India

India is a land of rich culture and heritage. And what better feature of the country could depict this than the Indian dance forms. The traditional dances of India have different styles. This is so because the dance forms belong to varied parts of the country – they originated there and then developed with all the cultural elements.

There are a great many folk dances that belong to separate regions of the country and are mainly performed by the local people of that particular region only. The Indian film dances also hold a significant spot in the culture of the country.

Origin of Indian Dance Forms

The dance forms of India have their origin since the ancient Vedic period wherein people used to indulge into singing and dancing for entertainment and recreational purposes. The Vedas hold an elaborate mention of performing arts. The Hindu text Natya Shastra includes all the earliest compilations of the ancient dance forms.

From these ancient dance forms have been derived the classical dances of India. Let’s get an insight into the popular dances of the country.

Bharatanatyam
Originated in 1000 BC, the Bharatanatyam dance belongs to Tamil Nadu in South India. This is mostly performed on Carnatic music. Earlier, the dance was performed only in Hindu temples and at other religious places. Bharatanatyam used to be a solo dance form performed only by women and depicted religious ideas and spiritual themes. During the British era, this dance form was suppressed and ridiculed. However, it went on to become one of the most famous traditional dances of India.

Kathakali
This is the most stylized dance form (basically a dance drama) that belongs to Kerala. Kathakali is a 17th-century dance form which is performed like a story-play and has very colourful and elaborate costumes, makeup, as well as face masks. Unlike other Indian dance forms, Kathakali is performed mainly by men. It was also traditionally performed in temples and religious chambers. The dance movements are incorporated from the ancient athletic traditions and martial arts of South India.

Kathak
This dance form belongs to North India, and the name ‘Kathak’ has been taken from the Sanskrit work ‘katha’ which means ‘story’. Hence, Kathak is ‘the one who tells the story’. It majorly consists of passionate and childhood stories of Lord Krishna. Kathak has three different forms which belong to, and are also named after three North Indian cities – Lucknow, Banaras and Jaipur. Ghungroo (small bells) is the main element and involves rhythmic body movements with facial expressions.

Kuchipudi
Kuchipudi is a dance form of Andhra Pradesh. Like other major classical Indian dances, Kuchipudi also has its roots and developed as a religious performing art. According to history, this dance was originally performed by Brahmin males, but now both men and women perform this dance. This is a pure dance form that includes expressions and sign languages.

Odissi
This dance belongs to Odisha, the coastal state of Eastern India. Odissi is a dance-drama style performing art, practiced traditionally by women to express spiritual themes and religious ideas. The dance is accompanied by musicians, wherein they narrate mythical stories, and the dancers perform wearing symbolic costumes with rhythmic movements, facial expressions and gestures.

Manipuri
As the name suggests, this dance form is from the North-Eastern Indian state of Manipur. This dance form takes its inspiration from the Raslila of Radha-Krishna and depicts such love-inspired dances. Manipuri is performed in a group and has a very unique and special costume called Kumil, which is a beautifully decorated skirt in the shape of a barrel. This is a very graceful dance which majorly involves movements of the upper body.

Mohiniyattam
This dance form of Kerala takes its name from the seductress avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu, Mohini, who lured the evil demons to help good prevail over the bad. Mohiniyattam is a Lasya style dance which is feminine in nature and comprises delicate body movements. This is a slow dance solo performance by women.

So, these were the famous traditional dances of India and a little history about their origins. Other than these, there are other tribal and folk dances too that mark the significance of Indian culture.