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How To Manipulate The Myanmar String Puppets

( by Daw Ma Ma Naing)

There are three methods of manipulating the Myanmar String Puppets .
   - Single String Handling
   - Double Strings Handling and
   - Triple Strings Handling


( 1) Single String Handling


Single strings used to walk or dance the puppet. It is connected to the knees of the puppet. So it's main purpose is to move the legs. Normally when we manipulate such kind of characters
like Ogres and Alchemist , we use this technique , single string handling. The hands are no use in this movement so the hand strings ( arm & palm ) are to be dead tied together to the thumb on the handle.
When we use this technique for the prince , princess and the page boy , the hands are to pick up the pearl beads with single hand or both and tied together to the thumb.

( 2 ) Double Strings Handling

The strings that are connected to the arm and palm are used to show the gestures , manners or the action of a puppet. And the hands are to move the jerky dance and to pick up the pearl beads with single hand or both , this method is applied. Mostly we use this movement for the jerky dance
of the prince and the princess.

( 3 ) Triple Strings Handling

This technique is used when both hands and feet are desired to dance. Leg
string , arm string , and palm strings must be held together and the arm string , twisted clockwise in the right hand by the thumb. After that all three strings are to be hold together again and put them in front of the puppet.
We use this technique for the prince , princess , lady votaress and the page boy to get a beautiful dance.

How to hold the Myanmar String Puppets

When manipulating a Myanmar marionette , the handle must be held in the left hand and the strings are to be held in the right hand. The way to hold the handle is , the handle ( cross bar ) must be on the index finger. Set the middle finger free and the back cross bar must be between the thumb and the folded finger and the little finger. It is important to hold the handle in the correct way.
The hip string of the puppet must be placed on the middle of the palm and is to be controlled by the ring finger not to fall down. The liveliness of a puppet entirely depends on the movements of the left hand. Even the slightest movement of the left hand with the life strings give a puppet " life ", nodding, tilting head or making the bosom fall and rise as if breathing. In this way, movements of the heads can be manipulated with the appropriate movement of the handle.
When holding the strings in the right hand, the thumb must be stretched out. The string is on the thumb and it goes under the index finger and on the other three fingers. The strings are to be adjusted on the hand to get center.
One important thing is the left hand, which is holding the handle must be stretched out straight, lifted high enough ; let the feet of the puppet touch the floor, standing tall, so that the puppet would not be looking awkward. So you have to be strong enough to keep lifting and manipulating the puppet for a long time without rest. In order to make the puppet look alive, the handle must be kept moving while manipulating. So also, the head of the puppet as well must be moved in accordance with the speech or music.

Detailed Instruction

( 1 ) Single String Handling

To manipulate the single string handling , arm string and palm string are to be dead tied together to the thumb on the handle. So if it is for the prince , princess or the lady votaress the pearl beads must be picked up with single hand or both , to get that position.

How to pick up the pearl beads with single hand

To pick up the pearl beads with single hand , the right hand is mainly used. Firstly all three strings must be pulled to the right side of the puppet by the thumb and choose the arm and palm strings by the middle finger . When getting those two strings , leave the leg string on the handle. And then the arm string is to be on the thumb and the palm string must be between the middle finger and the index finger. You need practice to get a smooth run between your fingers and the strings. On the other words , the strings must be going through the fingers smoothly so that the desired gesture can be achieved. In the process , the first thing to be done is adjusting the length of the strings on both sides. Then the strings are to be pulled a little to the right side and place the left side strings between the left hand thumb and the cross-bar tightly. And the doll must be leaning forward to make the puppet available for the beads- picking position. The marionette must be swung side to side. The arm string is to be tightened between the right hand thumb and the index finger.
But , the palm string between the middle finger and the index finger muss be a little bit lowered down to be able to pick up the beads easily. Then , when the beads swing as a result of the movement of the doll to the right side , the beads must be picked by the right hand palm string. After picking them up , the strings are pulled slowly onto the cross-bar and placed between the right hand thumb and the bar. Then the feet can be moved or danced.

Picking up the beads with both hands

This time , by both hands , those two strings ( arm & palm ) on your right hand fingers must be placed infront of the puppet. Let the puppet lean forward a little bit ; Arm string is to be tightened between the right hand thumb and the index finger. Then lower down the palm string and try to pick up the pearl beads with both hands , at the same time of the puppet lean forward. Then the strings are to be pulled onto the handle and placed under the left hand thumb and tied to the thumb. After setting that position the feet strings can be moved or dance.
You need a lot of practice to be able to pick up the pearl beads with both hands.

(2 ) Double String Handling

The strings that are connected to the arm string and palm string are used to show the gestures , manner or the action of a puppet. And when the hands are to pick up the pearl beads with a single hand or both , this method is applied. And for the jerky dance also.

How to manipulate the Jerky Dance

Place those two strings on the right hand fingers ( arm string between the thumb and the index finger & palm string between the middle finger and the index finger ) to the back of the handle , on the left hand wrist. Strings are to be played on the wrist. Let the puppet a little bit lean forward. Arm string is to be tightened as usual. So that the hands ' position of the puppet will be bent at the back of itself. Now , this position is ready for the jerky dance. But we need the help of our left foot to get a beautiful movement of the puppet.
So , with the help of the left foot , step the left side of the puppet ;make the puppet learn to the left side, the face- looking up the right side : and the same time, the palm string which is hanging down on the right hand middle finger is to be tossed up by the right finger. So that the right hand of the puppet will be bent to the front and that is the jerky dance position.
It will be the same movement for the left hand also.Step the foot to the right side of the puppet, make the puppet lean to the right side, the face look up the left side, at the same time the palm string which is hanging up on the middle finger , to be pull- tossed by the force of the ring- finger to the right side , so that the left hand of the puppet will be bent to the front. In this way , you can get the beautiful jerky dance by doing that technique left and right alternately.

( 3 ) Triple String Handling

For the triple string handling , three strings on the cross-bar must be pulled by the right hand thumb to the right side and you will see three different strings clearly , arm string , palm string , and the leg string. Among them arm string must be chosen by the middle finger and twisted cross position then pick the other strings up altogether and put them in of the puppet. Adjust the strings to get the right position in the right hand. This is ready to dance. The leg strings must be in of the shoulder of the puppet as much as possible. The right side of the three strings must be moved up by the force of three fingers , to start moving the right hand and leg together. The face also look at the right side. And get back to the normal position. It is the same way to change the left hand and leg also. The face , look at the left side ; the left side of the three strings in the right hand are to be lifted by the thumb to get the left hand's dancing position. And then get back to the normal position.
All the movements are to be manipulated according to the timing and tempo. So understanding timing is very important. As the tempo and timing are understood well , you will be able to mainpulate various kinds of dances.

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