Physically impossible

Lisa Mantchev posted this video of You Think You Can Dance and I clicked on it because usually Lisa is smart about these things.

At the 1:34 mark, the male dance did a move that I specifically teach new puppeteers to avoid because it is physically impossible. Let me repeat that. Physically impossible. He stands up, rolling over his toe, in a way that makes it look like he’s being pulled up and back by a string.

He does it three times during the course of the video — which also includes a fantastic dance and is worth watching on its own — each time, I backed the film up and watched it over and over.

Now, the thing is, that clearly, he’s a very strong man and that he’s getting a little boost from his partner, but STILL if I did that with a puppet I’d be accused of breaking every rule about Muscle and gravity in the books. Granted, there are times when we break the rules on purpose, but if one is aiming for realistic movement, what this man is doing would be avoided because it looks impossible.

The funny thing is, that it’s like fiction. There are all sorts of things that happen in real life I could never get away with in fiction because because it defies belief. It fascinates me that the issues involved in creating verisimilitude on the page and on the stage are same. It doesn’t matter if it’s true if it doesn’t look real.

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18 thoughts on “Physically impossible”

    1. I admire his virtuosity and the specificity of his movement, but the first two videos didn’t interest me very much because they felt like they were just showing off craft. You know? The last one, though I could have done with fewer cuts to the bizarre pink lines, felt like it had more of a build and a narrative, or at least a specific mood that it wanted to create.

      (Plus he did some of those things where he stands up in ways that just shouldn’t be able to happen unless gravity is working in a very different way where he is.)

      I have the same reaction to ballet. I might be stunned by the sheer physical prowess of the dancer, but it doesn’t move me or interest me if the showcase of skill is all that there is.

      1. Yeah, the third one was a real music video and the other two were just live performances. I don’t think he’s an actor or anything, just a dancer.

        I like watching him and trying to figure out how in the Sam Hill he DOES that stuff.

  1. I’ve been watching the dance All. Day. Not just because of the breathtaking physicality, but because both dancers managed to hit every single move with emotion and skill.

    Joshua’s audition was _fascinating_.

    By and large, the “poppers” do things on a regular basis in performance that look physically impossible.

    1. Thanks for sharing that. I think the reason that Joshua’s move really stunned me is that it looks almost exactly like what I make the puppet do when I’m demonstrating poor technique while talking about how to stand a puppet up without looking like it’s being lifted.

  2. “There are all sorts of things that happen in real life I could never get away with in fiction because because it defies belief.”

    In writing fabulism and spec-fic, I never came up against this as hard as I did in my first historical fiction of any length. I had written a little microfiction based on a family story, and it turned out so well I picked up one of my great-grandfather’s exploits and turned it into a short story. Before I turned it in to my workshop, I thought, “I wonder if they’ll believe he can make it home in that condition. Enh. He did in real life, so nuts to them!”

    Heh. Suffice it to say, after that workshop I no longer allow myself to so cavalierly dismiss verisimilitude based on little things like historical precedent.

    1. Good heavens, yes. I know exactly what you mean.

      I wrote a story recently and my MC is a puppeteer and right before setting off to do something dangerous and challenging she says, “Let’s go kick some puppet butt.”

      Every single person in my critique group flagged that as, “No one would say this.”

      Except that at a company I worked at, that was what you said right before walking on stage at every show. I still say it. I grumbled a lot, but cut it.

  3. I really enjoyed this routine. So much hip-hop has aggressive overtones and posturing moves. This was much more emotional, and I felt the moves really fit the theme of the dance.

  4. Valerie and I are watching this show for the first time this year. We were blown away when we saw this, and clearly we weren’t the only ones. Listen to the voice of Nigel, the executive producer and lead judge as he reacts to the performance. He’s stunned, and has never sounded quite that way before.

    Huge kudos also to the choreographers who provided these dancers with such an amazing routine to showcase their talents!

    1. It doesn’t make me want to own a TV, but it’s closer than most things. And I’m all for anything that widens people’s appreciation for the arts.

      And yes, the choreographers deserve enormous credit.

  5. Have you ever read Kleist’s The Marionette Theater? An essay in short-story form in which the characters discuss dance, puppetry, and volition, and conclude that perfect grace is only achievable by puppets and animals, because they have no volition to intrude upon their actions.
    Kleist’s very interesting – prolific, despite Selbstmord at 34, a dramatist who wrote both tragedy and comedy (like Shakespeare, unlike most), also the author of a substantial body of prose. The Marionette Theater is a strange and thought-provoking essay that’s haunted me for a long time. Anyone with a convincing explanation of the last paragraph is urged to post a reply!


  6. Two words from my fantasy language, Seshaa:

    fëlan (noun) – In Waterjewel use, means “false truth,” “unfact,” or “deceptive reality.” This is a falsehood which masquerades as truth, particularly if it distracts people from a more important, more valid, but more subtle fact. It’s something which is real but not true. When a person reads a holy book but ignores the living Word all around for the written words on the page, that is fëlan.

    felaan (noun, adjective or adverb) – In Waterjewel use, means means “subtle truth” or “true lie.” This is a truth which does not meet the eye, yet is still true and not a lie. It’s something which is true but not real. It appears in the expression, “Felaandir birshim, ve fëlandir birshim.” or “Some things are true but not real, and some things are real but not true.” which dates back to the Daughters of the Wind.

    1. It’s an impressive display. In this one it’s easier to see that he’s using the mass of his leg to aid in powering up, but dang, it still doesn’t look possible.

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