How it all started

In 1997 Itzik Galili invited me to join his new show, a collaboration with the Israeli Gertrude Theatre Company. Together they wanted to create a show combining dance and puppetry. They handpicked the best dancers they could find and I was happy to be one of them. We actually thought we could nail the show easily. But after two months of rehearsals Galili bravely decided to withdraw the show, just two days before the premiere. It caused a huge riot in the Netherlands. Galili quickly reworked an old show with us, which we toured instead. What happened? We had completely underestimated working with puppets. What we achieved after two months of hard work really was not worth presenting.  

I convinced the artistic leaders of Gertrude Theatre Company to stay with me and teach me their craft. And they did. They stayed with me for another two months and they patiently worked with me to teach me the most simple moves. It was they who created my first puppet: Porshia La Belle. In collaboration with Gertrude Theatre Company I created my first puppetry show: Loot (1998), which marked the beginning of his development from a dancer to a theatre-maker.

In this period I learned the basics of the craft I later personalized and called ‘The Object Score’. But still…I didn’t understand why working with a puppet touched me so much. Because I really was affected by it. I was trained as a modern dancer and actor in Brazil, India and Japan (butoh) before settling in the Netherlands in 1996. I had worked on many dance projects and movies with choreographers such as Paul Selwyn Norton, Ron Bunzl, Karin Post and with dance companies such as RAZ and Piet Rogie & Company.

I felt comfortable using my body to express myself. Now, working with a puppet, meant I had to give life to another entity. I was intrigued by it, although I wasn’t sure why. Then one day, as I put my hand in the back of Porshia’s neck, it struck me, suddenly recognizing the feeling from long ago. The ouch in the neck took me back to my youth when I was struggling with severe eye-infections, causing temporal blindness. It was at this time that I held my brother by the back of his neck, letting him guide me through the streets of our hometown. Inserting my hand in Porshia’s neck took me back to this feeling of trust, of being guided and connected to someone else. From that moment on I started to realize that by connecting myself with a puppet I could bring a separate energy alive. When I was young I had let my brother become my eyes to the world, now I started to see the world through the eyes of a puppet. Thus, I entered a whole new, magical world. It is exactly this world that I want to open up for my audience and that I want to teach my students to create too. 

The revelation of giving life to another entity became the thriving source of inspiration in my work with puppets. From that moment on, I started to address the puppet as a separate entity that I could use to extend my own body. Overtime I developed and perfected my artistic signature. In various shows I worked with different kinds of puppets. Puppets like Porshia, whom I lend a part of my body, I call Siamese puppets or Hybrids. Besides them, I work with full-size puppets on different scales. I work with puppets that are fairly illustrative and real and I work with puppets that are more abstract in their complexion. Small puppets, big puppets. Full body puppets and puppet-parts, consisting of only a head or a hand. Mostly, I work with hybrid puppets though, sharing my body (one arm and/or both legs) with the puppet. Their appearance may differ, but all puppets share one thing; the highly flexible material they are made of: foam.

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