Magical moments

"Two Hands' at Annenberg

2 minute read
Hua Hua Zhang's floating costumes: A far cry from Punch and Judy.
Hua Hua Zhang's floating costumes: A far cry from Punch and Judy.
Something very special took over the Harold Prince Theatre stage last weekend. Visual Expressions is the name that the Chinese expatriate puppet artist Hua Hua Zhang gives to her troupe, which is composed of puppets. Don't think Punch and Judy; these puppets are huge art works— heads on stick bodies, wearing glorious floating costumes— created by Zhang in her Philadelphia studio.

Zhang joined her puppets with Kun-Yang Lin, a Philadelphia choreographer originally from Indonesia. These two talented artists created a subtle work, extremely beautiful and poetic. Olive Prince, a talented Drexel professor/ dancer-choreographer, joined in the production, moving and dancing along with Lin and Zhang.

The original music was composed by Liang Liang, who was inspired by Taoism, the Chinese philosophy that respects nature and human beings alike. Other sounds were created using water, wind and metal friction, which perfectly suited the ephemeral and constantly changing puppets (manipulated by humans) that drifted across the stage.

Zhang performed as the Emperor, a shadowy figure who moved the large puppet figure from behind. In another section, she moved across the stage with her own face pressed up against the puppet's face— a ghost of a ghost.

Kun-Yang Lin performed the Emperor's Spirit. Beautiful puppets repeatedly drifted across the stage with fluttering robes while, behind this manifestation, dancers kept the puppets upright and hit their spots. A splendid dragon composed of all the dancers with a terrific dragonhead— its long body undulating in a long roll of plastic— brought the program to an end.

In the midst of this finale, Zhang entered the stage with a white bird on her hand. The bird swooped and flew among the performers. Having spent a few hours lost in this theatrical movement fantasy, the audience exploded in enthusiasm for such an enthralling presentation that was pure magic from beginning to end.♦

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What, When, Where

Two Hands. Joint presentation of Visual Expressions (Hua Hua Zhang, puppet artist) and Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, October 14-15, 2011 at Harold Prince Theatre, Annenberg Center, 3680 Walnut St. (215) 898-3900 or

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