In Memory of Maria Tallchief, a puppet dance

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief

My first love in performance has always been dance. I studied ballet for about five years before turning to music and then theater as career goals. However, the dedication and lyricism of ballet dancers has stuck with me as inspiration for all of my artistic work. Maria Tallchief was a dancer whose story I found especially inspirational as a kid and I was sad to hear of her death this week at age 88. In tribute, here is a short video of one of our characters from Cabinets of Kismet, the Swirl Dancer, dancing to the Berceuse from Stravinsky’s The Firebird, probably Tallchief’s most famous role. Thank you for adding beauty to the world, Maria Tallchief.

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The Origin of the Puppet

While some of the characters in this show, such as Kismet, have changed very little over the last year and a half, others have gone through lots of transformations. Darwin would probably be unimpressed with the random ways our puppets tend to mutate, as it tends to follow comments along the lines of “Does it look right?” rather than any natural selection. Here are some photos tracing the evolution of one object puppet, the Swirl Dancer.

I added the wood cutout to the melon baller. The way the circles at the top and bottom echoes the spiral is nice.

I added the wood cutout to the melon baller. The way the circles at the top and bottom echoes the spiral is nice.

Painting the swirl blue helps and the purple yarn hair brings focus to the top circle. The little purple scarf adds color.

Painting the swirl blue helps and the purple yarn hair brings focus to the top circle. The little purple scarf adds color.

Puppets can be fragile. After a couple of early rehearsals, the wooden swirl broke off. We still liked the hair, but we wanted to give her a skirt–at this point we were all thinking of her as a dancer character. But a skirt made from what? A sponge? Paper party blowers?

Genna ended up making a skirt from a scrunchie like fabric and layering it with a sparkly filigree decoration.

She's perhaps a bit more sparkly and princess-like than when she started out, but we like her!

She’s perhaps a bit more sparkly and princess-like than when she started out, but we like her!

Building Kismet #3

Genna and I experimented with adding controls to some old characters last week, including Swirl Dancer, here:

Genna operating Swirl Dancer.

Genna operating Swirl Dancer.

We also created Mophead, a friend for Kismet, who is made of odd plastic pieces and fabric scraps:

He's a colorful character.

He’s a colorful character.

Kismet and Mophead

Kismet and Mophead