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‘Petrushka’ is Stravinsky with a Twist

November 9, 2010

Published by Metro

In Igor Stravinsky’s Russian ballet “Petrushka,” three puppets embroiled in a dramatic love triangle come to life, Pinocchio-style. Though Stravinsky’s score is a classic, Basil Twist thought the original production’s choreography needed revision.

“The dancers pretended to be puppets, and so they moved like dolls, stiff,” says Twist, a highly acclaimed third-generation puppeteer. “In my mind, that isn’t what a puppet is.” And so he reworked the show.

“A puppet is an idealized human being in a way. A puppet ballerina can do things that a human ballerina only wishes she could do,” he says. “She can do giant jumps across the entire stage in slow motion, she can glide around on one toe, she can spin endlessly.”

Twist built the show’s three puppets into real puppets, all about two-thirds human size.

The show combines Japanese and Czech puppetry techniques: As per Japanese tradition each of the three puppets is maneuvered by three puppeteers at the same time. In true Czech form, all nine puppeteers perform unseen.

All about Basil

Basil Twist has an impressive résumé: He is the only American graduate of France’s prestigious puppetry training program at École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette. He’s created puppets for Broadway productions “The Addams Family Musical” and “The Pee Wee Herman Show” and he was a puppetry consultant for “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

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